Athena in the Icebox

Non-Fiction - Memoir
199 Pages
Reviewed on 08/22/2022
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Author Biography

Demi K has been around busy, intercultural settings all her life. The child of Greek parents who moved to America when she was five, Demi found herself immersed in the restaurant world from an early age, sautéing clams and plating up pasta before she’d even finished middle school. But amidst this bustling lifestyle, trouble began to brew, and a turbulent family turned Demi to dreams of life as a creative artist, free to express and be something beyond big business. This wasn’t part of the game plan as far as her family was concerned, but Demi dared to dream bigger and act, turning her fantasies into reality through hard work and self-belief.

At nineteen, everything changed, and Demi broke free and set off for the wilds of Alaska. Though she kept her hand in the world of bars and restaurants by waiting tables and travelling around, following the tourist season, Demi began to develop her love for writing and self-expression. Now, she splits her time between this passion and owning her own restaurant, where she still works diligently as a server, coming full circle to her traditional Greek roots. In her free time, Demi enjoys relaxing in the garden of her Alaskan home and still has a passion for travel, especially back to Greece to pay homage to her heritage and inspirational history.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Athena in the Icebox by Demi K is the continuation of a series of memoirs that champions the young, rebellious teenager from New England, Athena Angelopolous. Of Greek extraction, Athena, or Tina as she prefers to be known, is running from her abusive and controlling mother who along with her father owns and runs a restaurant in New England. Determined to get away from home, she decides to move as far away from New England as possible. After gathering up her few possessions and saying goodbye to her small circle of friends, she hops on a plane that will eventually take her to the frozen wilderness of Alaska. Escaping one difficult situation, Athena soon finds herself in a world she knows nothing about. The people living in Alaska all seem to be like her; running from something down south, or local Alaskans who are as weird and strange as any people she has ever met. Born with psychic powers that she doesn’t understand yet, naïve and vulnerable to the ways of the world, Athena is in for a rude awakening as she encounters everything from Neo-Nazis to spaced-out and drugged-up locals. Fitting in is all Athena wants but this will prove to be a difficult task in this strange and foreign environment.

Athena in the Icebox is a memoir unlike any I have read in the past. Told by Demi K from the viewpoint of a young woman just entering adulthood, it is full of quirky characters, weird psychic energy, and a whole plethora of amusing and, at times, downright odd situations. The author’s style is relaxed, conversational, and ironic. Despite Athena’s rebellious and snarky nature, it is hard not to like and empathize with her character. I have not read the first books in this series but I can assure readers that is not necessary as the author does an excellent job in setting the scene for this memoir and then teasing readers with what is to come next. I particularly enjoyed the ethnic mix of Eastern Europeans who made up many of the characters in this story. The irony of leaving an area wracked with turmoil and warfare to seek a better life in America and then end up in the frozen wastes of Alaska, yet still consider yourself well off, left a smile on this reader’s face. I also enjoyed the serendipities and interesting chance encounters that occurred in Athena’s journey that served to reinforce the idea there is something greater than ourselves watching over our journey of life and intervening when appropriate. This is a gentle, fun read and one that I can highly recommend.

Jamie Michele

Athena in the Icebox by Demi K is a historical young-adult memoir set in the 1990s and following its titular character in the last of her teen years, and is the sequel to the first book that preceded it, Athena in the Rathole. The book begins with nineteen-year-old Athena landing in Alaska after a long journey and being overwhelmed by her abrupt introduction to a different way of living. Still, she needs to work and settle herself in, and ditch the baggage she brought with her that is less designer gear and more childhood trauma. Her attitude and outlook are impacted by the vitriol she received from her mother and it manifests itself into cruel misinterpretations of the people she meets and the collective experiences of those who have given themselves wholly to Alaska. Athena—called Tina—is pretty much disgusted by everyone and everything. Nobody is off-limits. Hawaiians, Muslims, goths, Eastern Europeans, Asians...Tina is having none of it. Her work at a restaurant puts her in constant contact with others and her dating life starts to blossom, but when someone she cares about does the unthinkable, all of her former trauma comes to a head.

Athena in the Icebox by Demi K is a tough read. I'm not certain whether there will be more readers on Team Tina or more on Team Alaska, but from where I stood it was not easy to root for our Greek-American anti-hero although I loved the acerbic wit and the city-girl-in-the-wilderness arc. We are given snapshots of her former life and what she is running from in the form of internal thoughts and the author deserves credit for restraint in the running narrative of exactly how bad Tina's upbringing was. At nineteen, she is still attempting to work through what she's experienced but does not seem to understand that her perceptions of other people who are different from her are a reflection of her mother and what her mother did. Regardless, what Tina goes through and what is revealed in the last few pages of the book is heart-breaking. The book ends on something of a cliff-hanger as even though we know what Tina chooses to do with regard to physically staying in Alaska or not, there's no emotional closure. The book just ends with a decision, and readers will have to decide for themselves whether or not they find Tina endearing enough to follow whatever path she lands on next.

K.C. Finn

Athena in the Icebox is a work of non-fiction in the memoir, social issues, and coming of age subgenres. It is intended for the mature YA and adult reading audiences owing to some non-graphic scenes and occasional explicit language and was penned by author Demi K. Continuing the fascinating and inspiring story of her life and her triumphs over adversity, the story moves on where book one, Athena in the Rathole, left off. Now 19 and venturing into a new life serving in diners in Alaska, young Athena will soon learn the harsh lessons of having to survive on her own. What results is a heartfelt tale of overcoming struggles, and learning that people are often not what they seem at first glance.

Having really enjoyed the first book in this series, I found the second installment just as thrilling, filled as it was with fascinating anecdotes about life in Alaska and the extreme culture shock that a city girl experiences out in the wilds on her own. Author Demi K has such a flair for character and dialogue, with larger-than-life figures who leap off the pages, filled with warmth, humor, and sometimes pure venom! I also really enjoyed the way that Athena continues to show her Greek heritage through her love for food, even as she expands her horizons by meeting people from all over the world. Memoir fans are sure to find Athena in the Icebox interesting, but also emotionally resonant, especially for young women who have had to face the big wide world alone.

Viga Boland

It’s hard not to be impressed by a memoir writer who has the guts to tell it like it is and not apologize if she offends more reserved readers with her language and descriptions. That’s how Demi K wrote Athena in the Icebox, the sequel to her popular Athena in the Rathole. After reading this sequel, I am so tempted to grab a copy of that first book: it would shine an even brighter light on why Athena, now 19, gave her horrid mother a shiner and is heading as far away from “Mommy” as she can: Alaska!

So how does a dark-haired Greek girl who favors makeup, bright red lipstick, and a black leather jacket fit in with non-makeup wearing, flannel-shirted native Alaskans? Not easily! Athena, who now goes by Tina, is as awed by them as they are by her. And given how she loves to eat, how does she take to eating reindeer sausages, salmonberry pie, and seal-oil ice cream? ‘Scuse me? Then there’s the apparently accepted pastime of easy sex that results in plenty of babies being born to single moms. Rather shocking for Tina who is still a virgin and is offered $10,000 if she will only marry a fellow she has just met! Are the long, dark winter days depriving folks of Vitamin D messing with everyone’s brains?

Demi K does a wonderful job of making readers identify with how appalled, sometimes frightened, and ever bewildered Tina feels. What a different world to her New England home and Mediterranean roots. If readers aren’t familiar with life in the far north, they will learn so much about its inhabitants, their culinary tastes, and pastimes. As beautiful as its scenery is, it takes good survival instincts and an appreciation of one’s self-worth to call this place home. Despite her misgivings and fears, Tina has both. Given that author Demi K currently resides in Alaska, where she now owns a restaurant, she has obviously settled into Alaskan life with all its oddities. In escaping her mother by moving to Alaska, Demi has experienced great personal growth. That growth has given wings to her creative pursuits, and we readers are enlightened and enriched by what she has shared. Incidentally, Tina’s story will be continued in an upcoming third memoir.