Guest Post with Jacqueline Friedland

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hi Everyone!

I am excited to be here today with a guest post from Jacqueline Friedland. Please help me give her a warm welcome to the blog :)


Finding the Light

            Have you ever had “The Bill Cosby Argument”?  It could equally be called “The Harvey Weinstein Debate” or the “Kevin Spacey Question”.  Imagine the following conversation.
            You:  “I loved Bill Cosby as an actor.  Even though he was accused of such heinous crimes, if you consider his acting ability as a separate part of his persona, he was incredible.”
            Your Friend:  “But you can’t separate it.  Bill Cosby, ‘the actor’, is the same person as Bill Cosby, ‘the alleged sexual predator’.  You can’t ignore the allegations of cruelty and depravity simply because he was capable of beautiful art.”
            This same argument can be applied to American history.  Looking in particular at the American South during the early to mid-1800s, there is a stark dichotomy between the beauty and the atrocities of the era.  One cannot romanticize the opulence of the time period without also acknowledging the barbarous nature of the system that kept such prosperity and abundance afloat.
            These thoughts were the impetus for Trouble the Water.  So many books and movies depict the antebellum South as a wonderland of hoop skirts and plantation parties without getting into the ugliness that was rampant beneath this gilded veneer.  I wanted to write a story that would not ignore the horrid nature of the system in which one set of people was luxuriating while others were suffering so brutally.
            To my surprise, as I began researching and formulating ideas, I did discover a bright light, something which I actually could separate out from the repulsiveness of slavery:  The grace and decency of people who risked everything to fight, to help the innocent escape, to guide others to freedom.  Thus was born my character, Douglas Elling, the tragic hero who loses everything in his effort to help others.
Although the U.S. government outlawed importation of slaves in the early 1800s, kidnappers continued to abduct Africans and bring them to the States with little interference.  Douglas Elling sees this lax enforcement and decides to take matters into his own hands.  He forms the Blackbirder Blockade, a group of courageous men who take to the open water and intercept slave ships.  Unfortunately, the South was a dangerous place for abolitionists, especially those who got too big for their britches.  With a harsh dose of reality, Douglas learns that valor and social conscience can come with a heavy price.  He ends up in a dark and defeated place.
            Trouble the Water begins when Douglas is at his bleakest point and explores the ways in which a fallen hero might claw his way back to a place of optimism and ambition.  Thankfully, Abigail Milton enters his life, and through her own tortured past, she manages to convince him that being true to his ideals is the only way for him to survive.  The journey these two characters take together shows that even in the dreariest times, there can be moments of brilliance and delight.


Jacqueline Friedland holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from NYU Law School. She practiced as an attorney in New York before returning to school to receive her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York with her husband, four children, and a tiny dog. TROUBLE THE WATER (SparkPress) is her first novel. Visit her online at o  or

Happy Reading!

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