Last week, I decided I would get back into reading. I had fallen off of the wagon since finishing my PhD. As soon as I walked into East City Book Shop in Washington DC, I saw the bright orange cover with the title Queenie. After talking to a few employees, they all ensured me that I would not be upset with this purchase. So I bought it. And let me tell you…..this book was AMAZING with all caps. Queenie is the first book from Londoner Candice Carly-Williams. Queenie details the story of a London-born, Jamaican woman who is navigating her adult years carrying baggage from both childhood and adulthood. The book weaves between her past and present delivering a story that every woman especially black women can relate to. First, Queenie and her white boyfriend are on a break, she is sucking at work, she’s been abandoned by both her mom and dad, and her many sexscapades with random OkCupid lovers has sent her already low self-esteem into the sunken place.
When we first meet Queenie she is packing up her half of the apartment that she shared with her boyfriend, Tom. After a huge blow up at Tom’s parent’s house he decided that they needed a break. At first, I wanted Tom and Queenie to get back together but as I got further along in the book, I realized Tom was a privileged idiot. Mainly because he never defended her when his family members would make “black” jokes. This is all to familiar for people of color. A white person makes a “black joke”, the victim looks around for an ally and everyone looks away as if they saw nothing. The victims feels vulnerable and alone leading them to act out. And for Queenie who has no self-worth these events are even more traumatic. So no I strongly disliked Tom.
We also learn more about Queenie’s squad: a Ghanain woman named, a Jewish college mate named Cassandra, and a work buddy named Darcy. They all serve a meaningful and different purpose in Queenie’s life, but from the start it was evident that they all had her best interest at heart even Cassandra. Read the book and you’ll understand the Cassandra part. They deliver what I call tough love but also understand the complexities that make Queenie who she is. Her squad resonated with me since I have friends from diverse backgrounds who all bring something different to my life. These women keep me sane during stressful times and bring joy to my life everyday.
Queenie also explores the lack of support in pursuing therapy and psychological services in the black community. From an early age you are taught “What happens in this house stays in this house”. A mental breakdown caused by both childhood and adulthood trauma forces Queenie to seek therapy which goes against her Jamaican roots. In therapy, Queenie is forced to confront the very things that have kept a rain cloud over her head for her entire life. These issues have caused her to lose her job, her home, peace of mind, and pride. In black communities therapy is often looked down on and emotional intelligence is usually not taught in individual households. One of the scenes in the book that really stuck out to me is when Queenie is discussing therapy with her grandparents. Her grandmother is 100% against it but surprisingly her grandfather encourages her to go. He later tells her that he was afraid she wouldn’t recover after her breakdown if she didn’t attend. He was scared she would end up like her mom. I like that Candice shows that even the oldest of minds can be changed and why mental health in the black community is an important topic that deserved more attention.
Overall I give Queenie, two dumbs up. Many reviewers have compared the story to Bridget Jones Diary, however I feel that Queenie is more complex than that. Queenie shares the experiences of a first-generation Londoner trying to cope with being a black woman in a white world, self hate and sabotage, trauma, family pressure, and all the other punches life throws at you. There’s a little bit of Queenie in all of us. The book is less than $13 and a link to purchase it can be found here.
From Aeriel, With Love