Queenie Jenkins is a Jamaican Londoner who is desperately trying to keep her life together. While on a “break” from her long-time boyfriend, Queenie finds herself in a cycle of casual sex and in a downward spiral at work and with many of her other relationships. On top of everything, she has to deal with microaggressions on the daily because she doesn’t quite fit in in her very white office or her very Jamaican family.
Just as our main character Queenie doesn’t quite fit in in her life, this book doesn’t quite fit into any specific genre. It certainly has too much sex to be classified as YA, yet I don’t think Adult is the right category for it either. Queenie is in her twenties and is in a phase of self-discovery, which is extremely relevant for so many young women in this age range. Reading along as Queenie makes mistake after mistake was so hard at times because I just wanted to shake her or give her a hug or SOMETHING. She experiences self-absorption that holds her back in her career and that makes her frustrating from the perspective of her good friends. At the same time, however, she recognizes this about herself and tries to improve her attitude and behavior every day. In short? She is in her twenties and is trying to find herself without losing all the things she already has going for her.
Queenie has the added struggle of being black and is trying to navigate cross-culturally. She goes to work every day in a very white office place and, it seems, after work joins some very white social circles. Through these settings, the author shows readers the microaggressions her main character experiences every day in such a striking way: through the lens of utter normalcy. As a white woman, I was truly shocked to hear some of these and watch Queenie react like they were old hat. As she dates, men attack her for being “one of those Black Lives Matter girls.” When she goes to the club, a white woman grabs her hair and feels in the right when Queenie is disturbed. When she goes home with her boyfriend of many years, his family acts with outright racism towards her and he doesn’t share her outrage. All of this left such a strong impression on me and says so much without the author needing to spell it out.
The final piece of this book that made it such a good read for me was Queenie’s experiences finding a therapist, pushing back against her family and cultural norms surrounding mental health, and watching her make small changes and breakthroughs in her life because of it. She is clearly uncomfortable with the experience of asking for help and acknowledging her short-comings, but she does it and she benefits from it. I really appreciated how realistic Queenie’s journey is from start to finish and I think a lot of readers will see some of themselves in her.
Overall? A really special book that represents the importance of reading outside my own personal experiences, biases, and culture for me specifically and a character that will resonate with and help heal so many readers.
Thank you to Gallery Books for sending me a review copy of this title.
PUBLICATION DETAILS: Gallery/ Scout Press; 336 pp; 978-1501196010; March 19, 2019. Fiction -> Domestic Life