Queenie – a flawless illustration of black womanhood ★★★★

Queenie is a young journalist in London: trying to find cheap, non-mouldy accommodation, struggling to get an internship or success on dating apps. In the meantime, she enjoys cartons of ice cream while watching Pride and Prejudice. Queenie is a lot like me. She’s a lot like a lot of us. As a protagonist, she is exceedingly relatable, in a Bridget Jones kind of way. 

The novel opens with Queenie’s legs in stirrups during a gynaecological exam. Author, Candice Carty-Williams immediately sets the tone for her debut modern-day romantic comedy perfectly exploring questions of relationships, religion, sex, work, friendship, and black womanhood. 

After a disastrous breakup with her middle-class white boyfriend (a man her family never approved of), Queenie seeks love in all the wrong places and enters into a series of dangerous relationships. Due to the colour of her skin, Queenie is frequently exoticised by men on dating apps who are only interested in her physical attributes. Since she cannot turn to her family for support, she ends up dealing with issues of a miscarriage, racism, violence, and aggression alone. As readers, we are the first to notice signs of depression which she is hesitant to address. We come to realise that her entire life has been clouded with pain which she has never acknowledged and thus culminates in the form of an emotional breakdown. 

This book offers a harsh representation of life as a young black woman, in a way that most of us could be guilty of overlooking. We witness the distress caused by Queenie for self-acceptance in a prejudiced society that constantly objectifies her. It is a reality that we often turn away from, but Carty-Williams does a brilliant job of forcing us to confront it head-on. 

I can’t wake up and not be a black woman. I can’t walk into a room and not be a black woman. On the bus, on the tube, at work, in the canteen, Loud, brash, sassy, angry, mouthy, confrontational, bitchy…There are ones people think are nice, though; well spoken, surprisingly intelligent, exotic. My favourite is ‘sexy’, I think. I guess I should be grateful for any attention at all”. 

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