I tore through this novel in less than 12 hours last weekend, and I am still trying to find actual coherent reflections on this book rather than just screaming at all of you about how amazing this book was. takes a very deep breath.
Queenie is a brilliantly written novel that is witty, honest, raw, heartbreaking, political, and hopeful. Queenie endures so much throughout this book, but she doesn’t let any of it break her spirit.
When Queenie’s long-term boyfriend Tom decides that they need a “break”, Queenie decides to fill that void by engaging in lots of unsafe sex with people she barely knows. It is emphasized in the book that she has always choses white partners (the reason behind this is revealed later). The partners she chooses embrace exploit her “exotic” black girl features, but are quick to dismiss her for any sort of relationship potential (This hit me in the heart like a dagger. This is EXACTLY what I experienced in college.) This creates a vicious cycle for Queenie’s love life, which turn into utter chaos.
Queenie is a journalist for one of the most prominent newspapers in the UK (The Daily Mail), but her boss only allows her to write the cookie cutter pieces that will please the viewers. Queenie is passionate about the increased protests surrounding the police brutality of black men and the Black Lives Matters movement in the United States, and she desperately wants to highlight this topic. However, she is silenced by her boss and peers whenever she approaches the subject, which makes her internal struggle at work even worse.
This book also broaches the taboo of discussing mental health issues within the black community. Whenever Queenie tries to confide in her grandmother and voice her potential need for therapy, her grandmother is completely dismissive. This definitely adds to Queenie’s downward trajectory.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away because I really do think that this is one of those books that you have to experience those emotions for yourself. I read Queenie as if Queenie was myself. My 20s were an incredible dark time filled with misplaced love/lust, depression, racial identity crisis, a need for love and acceptance, loss of a loved one, and divorce. I felt her pain to the depths of my soul. This book will be one of those that I recommend to people not just because it’s eye opening and thought provoking but because it also describes so many pieces of me that I have never been able to put into words.
Thank you to Gallery Books for an advanced copy of this book. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.