Book Report: Whiskey Sea

whiskey sea ann howard creel

Synopsis: The Whiskey Sea is the prohibition-era story of Frieda Hope, the eldest daughter of a deceased whore who lives in a small shore town with her little sister, Bea, and Silver, a clammer/fisherman who took the girls in and raised them. Frieda grows up on the sea and falls in love with the ocean and their fishing boat. Desperate to escape the fate that befell her late mother, Frieda breaks with traditional gender roles of the time to become a boat mechanic so she can support her sister’s academic endeavors. When she’s offered an incredibly lucrative job on a rum-running boat, the rewards (and romance?) far outweigh the risks.

Characters: I really identified with Frieda. We’re both tough as nails badass bitches from small seaside towns who are majorly protective of our perfect, gradeful little sisters. Neither of us are traditional women. We’re tomboys, outliers, and dreamers. We both want to escape a small shore town past.

On the other hand, I really despised Bea. She seemed so aloof and ungrateful, lost in her fashion magazines and daydreams without doing a thing to help herself OR her sister. She provided a stark contrast to Frieda- perfectly feminine and diligently fulfilling gender roles around the house. I pictured her singing to the birds and mice like a Disney princess as she went about her chores.

Hawkeye, an older fisherman who skulks around the local bars and docks, presents Frieda with a nemesis, but this relationship is never fully developed or concluded. It’s inferred that he’s Frieda’s biological father, but she never suspects or accepts this possibility.

Class tourism.
The focus of the story centers on Frieda’s unexpected feelings and relationship with Charles (aka Princeton)- a well-educated, wealthy do-nothing spending the summer at his parents’ beach house. Bored little rich boy craves excitement and so volunteers to help out on the rum-running boat Frieda works on. Against the core of her beliefs, Frieda falls for him knowing his intention to leave at the end of the summer and return to his richboy life in Manhattan. Princeton just wants to live dangerously, rum-running for fun, where Frieda and crew risk their lives almost nightly for a chance to escape poverty. This dichotomy creates most of the tension in the book.

Set in the prohibition era, rebellion presents as a major theme across all classes, from the rum-running boats in poor fishing towns to the speakeasies popping up around Manhattan. The country at large was rebelling against what they saw as an illegitimate law. Frieda, triggered by her own insecurities about her mother’s past, rebels against femininity, balking tradition and working hard to become the best, most respected boat mechanic around. She rebels against Silver’s desires for her future and Bea’s hopes for her as well. Her brand of rebellion ends up alienating her from most of society, just like her mother was. And good ole Princeton rebels against the “restraints” placed upon him by the expectations of upper class society.

Questions to think about.
What drew Silver, who was 25 at the time, to take the girls? He spent his life and resources on them and never married. Was he happy with his choice?

Who is Frieda’s father? Presumably Hawkeye as he’s the one who leaves flowers on her mother’s grave. How would that realization impact Frieda? Does she know and choose to ignore it to protect her heart and her hatred?


Book Report: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Memoir is an incredibly difficult genre to write well. It requires a certain level of narcissism mixed with transcendent wisdom that must be shared with the world. Because Tina Fey lacks both of these qualities, Bossypants is a hilarious, relatable look into the unlikely success of one of the funniest women on the planet.


The self-depreciating tone of the book told with Tina Fey’s signature sarcastic wit struck a chord with the insecure middle school nerd of my past. As a (kind of) successful (though far less famous) woman myself, I realized how important that nerd and all of her embarrassing, awkward moments were in forming who I am now. To look back on our past selves and be able to endearingly chide ourselves instead of reliving that embarrassment is an important step in loving yourself. Forgiving our child selves, and acknowledging the strength that pushed us through the mess of adolescence is an indicator of growth. Tina Fey recounts an awkward time in her life where she used her gay friends as props, but selfishly wanted them to stay “half in the closet.” This analysis of her past was no doubt a huge epiphany for her that helped her form stronger relationships and become a better person.

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypants

Tina Fey also failed a lot. Sometimes her sketches fell flat. Sometimes she didn’t feel like her work was complete when the SNL deadline hit and she had to forge ahead anyway. Her insight on the myth of doneness resonated. There will occasionally be times when the goal changes from finishing to fighting through it and moving on to the next thing. There’s no time to beat yourself up over failures, but there’s immense value in learning from them and applying them to the next sketch.

“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”
― Tina Fey, Bossypants

I also appreciate her openness about doubt and anxiety. No successful woman achieved her dreams without doubting herself along the way. Staving off the “what ifs” that anxiety chronically throws at me is one of my biggest challenges. Tina Fey laid bare all of her doubts about motherhood, comedy, cruises, fame, even her writing and acting abilities. But she never questioned the talent of her team.

I’m sure each of her peers have felt the same doubts, but there was a huge lesson here, especially for women: Others see us much differently than we see ourselves. It’s important to share our perspective with the women in our lives. Fey is hyper-aware of the pressure on women to not only succeed, but “do it all.” I was nodding my head in agreement with her thoughts on older women (especially those who speak their minds) being referred to as “crazy.” Where age = wisdom for men, as women we lose our credibility and relevancy when we’re no longer “hot.” Amy Schumer actually did a hysterical sketch with Tina Fey on this phenomenon:

Reading about the hilarious behind-the-scenes work on SNL and 30 Rock makes me want to watch all of 30 Rock. I think I fell off somewhere around the time the latest season of Shameless appeared on Netflix. Putting together a tv show seems unimaginably stressful, triple that for a live show! My admiration for Tina Fey has grown exponentially.

Her appreciation and gratitude for the people in her life, especially Amy Poehler, inspired me to write love letters to my friends.

Do you want a love letter? DM me your address on Instagram or Twitter and I’ll send you a handwritten note about how much ass you kick.