Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams, author; Shvorne Marks, narrator
Queenie is a troubled young woman of color, from a dysfunctional background. As her character is developed and explored, the author illustrates the racism that not only black women are exposed to, but also touches on the plight of the black person, in general, as an attempt is made to navigate the world ruled largely by Caucasians and men. Subtly, also, there is an anti-Trump sentiment, an anti-police opinion, and a possible anti-Semitic element introduced in the book. Cultural differences and moral standards are different across political, racial and religious backgrounds and they are exposed by the author.
Queenie is in an interracial relationship when the book opens. Her white boyfriend and his family embrace her, but she seems to drive them away with her own behavior. She is afraid of too much commitment and of being rejected. When the relationship ends, Queenie is devastated and begins to act out in wanton ways. She is eager to sleep around and actually craves casual, sexual relationships that are even abusive and somewhat violent. She has close friends who worry about her as they witness her decline, but her problems do not seem easily resolved. Her fears and insecurities are the result of her difficult childhood. Abandoned by her mother who was in an abusive relationship and raised largely by grandparents and an aunt who have their own issues, she became an insecure and somewhat irresponsible young adult seeking mostly to pleasure herself without considering the consequences. She is always surprised by the results of her often irresponsible behavior, but somehow she seems unable to make the necessary reforms in her lifestyle.
Eventually, outside help brings some resolution to Queenie and she learns that she is indeed valued and is a valuable as a person. The reader watches her as she suffers through the process of achieving maturity and mental and emotional health. She stops feeling sorry for herself and begins to face and deal with her own problems and her own actions that bring so much pain to her life.
It is not my kind of a book. There is too much crude language and sexual content for my taste. I would rather have witnessed her progress without the smut. I understood that she was searching for love as she welcomed strangers to her bed. I did not need a description of what transpired between her and her partner in that bed.
On the positive side, the book, in its way, pointed out that many people, from diverse backgrounds feel oppressed and it explored some of the reasons. Regardless, everyone has to find a way to function in the real world successfully without abandoning certain principles. Queenie’s poor moral standards and poor work ethics had a negative effect on her future. She was very aware of her color as her identity, yet she loved white men and feared black men, probably due to her experiences, in her past, when she lived with her mother, another troubled woman who still lacks confidence and appears to be weak. As Queenie begins to overcome her personal insecurities, others witnessing her changes in behavior, also begin to act differently, like her mother and her grandparents, who begin to grow, as well.
This book has received many excellent reviews which I would expect from an industry that largely supports the progressive movement and the left. However, although I thought the writing was well done, absent the vulgarity, it felt contrived in some ways as unwarranted political views suddenly arose. Still the evolution of this damaged, selfish and immature, insecure young woman, with a depressive personality, suffering from panic attacks, into someone who finally had some self respect and strength of character was enlightening and inspiring even with its somewhat of a fairytale ending. Queenie begins to overcome her insecurity and finally finds her voice.