‘Queer Drunk Punk’ Author Zehava Frieman on How Growing Up in Grosse Pointe Park Inspired Her Debut Novel

Riot grrrl and grunge movements shine bright in Frieman’s work

When Zehava Frieman finally sat down to write “Queer Drunk Punk” in 2021 on the tail end of decades of what she describes as “creative constipation,” the debut novel all but poured out of her. “It was literally nine months of what you would call automatic writing,” she told Pride Source. “My brain was in sync with my hands, and I was just furiously typing.”

In part, Frieman’s writing sessions were inspired by her personal experiences growing up in Grosse Pointe Park as a closeted, cisgender lesbian in the 1980s. By the 10th grade, she says in her author's bio, she started writing "angst-ridden prose and screenplays" and was watching MTV instead of studying for her Civics tests. After high school, she spent 35 years working at a wide variety of jobs, including as a grave digger, screen printer, corrections officer, FedEx courier and truck driver, gathering characters and life experiences as she went.

In her writing, Frieman also draws from years spent watching the punk and associated scenes of the Gen X era from afar as a teenager and, later, from memories of going to shows in her 20s. Along the way, she conducted an exhaustive series of interviews with people who participated in the music scene of the time. 

“Queer Drunk Punk,” billed as a "teenage anthem about sex, sobriety and rock n’ roll" in press materials, starts with main character Quinn Snyder slogging her way through high school, before being eventually outed after the death of her mother. This leads to a struggle with alcoholism and a burgeoning career as a music journalist covering the life of a childhood friend turned feminist punk rocker.

“A lot of this is fiction. I was not that person in high school; I knew a lot of those people. I took from their experiences, but I myself did not go through that. I sat next to a bunch of burnouts and new wavers in high school, so I took from that experience,” Frieman said. 

As soon as she finished up with “Queer Drunk Punk,” Frieman was back at the keyboard typing up her second novel, “Natsy Grrrls.” 

Nasty Grrrls” is the direct sequel (both books are out now), set during the riot grrrl and grunge eras that characterized much of the Clinton Administration. Now out of a job and at a low ebb, Quinn is tasked with finding an AWOL rock star to solve the mysterious recent death of the lead singer of a punk band. 

Todd Alcott, who created the cover art for both books, told Pride Source he was influenced by his Gen X upbringing and Frieman’s vision for the cover. “We both ‘get’ punk culture, zine culture, that 1980s indie thing of ‘Well, there’s no internet, so if you want to hear new music, you have to go to the club, you have to hang out in the record store, you have to see a hundred terrible shows in dive bars where the floor has been mopped with a bucket of last night’s spilled beers.’”

Also influencing Alcott’s artwork is what he sees as a nihilistic streak in Friemans’ Quinn character, who he described as a “kind of rebel without a cause who’s just kind of crashing through life making problems for everyone.”