Confessions of a Rebel Debutante
By Anna Fields
reviewed by Erin Z. Bass
North Carolina gal Anna Fields’ memoir, “Confessions of a Rebel Debutante,” hit bookstores February 1. In the style of Jill Conner Browne’s “Sweet Potato Queens,” Fields goes inside the debutante culture of the South based on her own experiences attending boarding school, taking Cotillion classes and eventually becoming a “rebel deb.”
Beginning with her birth at Alamance County Hospital in Burlington, Fields takes us through each phase of her life. We see her progression from aspiring Southern belle to Myrtle Beach “bad girl,” Ivy League graduate and starving actor, with lots of references to the ultimate rebel deb, Scarlett O’Hara. In fact, it’s all the references – a bit too many – to Scarlett and what she would or wouldn’t do in a particular situation that are one of this book’s downfalls.
Fields has a great story hidden in between her numerous descriptions of cotillion balls, people who don’t like her because she’s Southern and her attempts to live up to the rebel deb label she’s given herself. It takes her a long time to get to the essence of the story, and by then some readers may be plum tuckered out.
Fields does impart a few gems, such as her “Rules of the Rebel Debutantes” that will elicit some laughs:
Rule #1: Love the South. (Well, anything above Jacksonville, Florida, that is.)
Rule #2: You Can’t Make Chicken Salad Out of Chicken Shit. (Translation: Cowards Never Amount to Much.)
Rule #3: Someday the South Will Rise Again. And Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be President.
“Rebel Debutante” also doesn’t lack in Southern characters, from true debutante Clementine Footwhistle to Billy Ray Horn, who can whip up a mean peach cobbler, in addition to providing tidbits about celebrities Fields has met and her experience working for “Real Housewife of New York” Jill Zarin. But all those characters get lost in the narrative and feel like stories for another book.
It’s on page 268 that Fields finally gets to the heart of her story with a final lesson: “Remember who you are. And be proud of where you came from.” She goes on to write: “It’s easy to hate the tiny Podunk town you came from … until you leave it, that is. Then you start to realize how much you need those roots to survive, and how much they’ve helped you grow.”
Why we had to read through six chapters on debbing and cotillion classes and how horrible Jill Zarin is to get there we’re not sure, but for any Southerner who’s left the South and returned home again, at least part of Fields’ memoir rings true. And that counts for somethin’.
“Confessions of a Rebel Debutante” is available from Indiebound, Amazon and most bookstores. Anna Fields grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and is now a New York-based television writer and comedienne whose plays have been produced and/or requested by LaMaMa Theatre Company in New York, Theater J in Washington, D.C., and the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. She regularly appears at comedy clubs, bookstores, boutiques and pig-pickins, both North and South of the Mason Dixon Line. Visit her blog at rebeldebutante.blogspot.com.