Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah in this disarmingly honest, boldly political, and truly inclusive novel that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.
Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.
(Please disregard any grammatical errors)
I don’t think I’ve been this disappointed in a book in quite some time.
Queenie with all of its rave reviews never hints at the alarming and problematic content.
Queenie is a twenty-something-year-old Jamaican woman—who is just about at her wit’s end. She’s messing up at work, and her boyfriend of two to three years just dumped her. Her white boyfriend of two or three years—this is significant.
I want to be as clear as possible, but I don’t want to be completely spoiler-y. However, some things I will bring up have to be mentioned to back up my distaste for this novel.
I have so many issues with this book, that we don’t have enough time to cover them all, but I’ll discuss the most glaring ones.
While I was proud that this novel featured what appeared to be a plus-sized Jamaican woman, she did nothing to deserve my pride.
Queenie is a hot mess. While the author places the blame on her mental state, it felt like a lackluster excuse.
Queenie mourns the loss of her Caucasian boyfriend for about 60-70% of the book, and we get to see it through text-begging and whining on Queenie’s behalf. While she struggles to maneuver the breakup—we’re provided with flashbacks to mostly less than flattering moments between Queenie, her boyfriend and sometimes his parents.
One of the most startling situations come in the form of a game of clue. While playing clue with her boyfriend and his uncle, the uncle blurts out, “There’s a nigger in the closet.” Queenie was offended and rightfully so. She looks to her then boyfriend, Tom to defend her—which resulted in an argument between the pair. Their relationship was a mess. Yes, we get to see the good parts, but it’s glaringly obvious that they didn’t need to be together.
I won’t dwell on that. I’m more concerned about the after. The after that included multiple “white” sex partners who praised her for her black features and treated her as an exotic place to rest their loins. Even more frustrating was that she didn’t use protection. With. Any. Of. Them. This resulted in her having to visit the “racist” sex clinic far too many times. She not only faced the prospect of contracting some sexually transmitted disease but also the ridicule of white doctors who felt her behavior expectant of a young black woman. It was disgusting; not unrealistic, but disgusting.
What was most bothersome is Queenie’s incessant and unstoppable need to work her way through white men sexually, who showed her zero respect? They talked down on her, worked their way through her and discarded her like trash.
The author blamed this on her upbringing and her anxiety-riddled mind. While that’s not unbelievable, I truly wished she would have gone about it differently.
Queenie is also a budding journalist. She’s been interning at the Daily Read for a few years and has had no significant or meaningful work. The author sort of implies it’s because she’s looked over because she’s black—and while that’s a part of it; it’s mostly because she sucks at her job.
Throughout the book you see Queenie fighting to get through her day; struggling with the devastation of a broken heart—and her anxiety; as explained in the latter half of the book.
She fights to write about black people at the paper—only to face dismissal by her editor, who is white. That whole part of the book was hardly convincing and felt as if it were added on at the last minute.
Queenie seemed faux angry about black issues and I could have done without that entire idea altogether. She seemed angry and riled up out of obligation.
But, let’s not dwell on that.
She has a group of best friends that do their best and their worst to help her cope through her breakup and deal with whatever’s been lurking in the background.
She has two white best friends, and one Ugandan dark-skinned best friend, that says things like bruh, and fam repeatedly.
Though, her “black friend” had the most sense. I won’t get into the fact that her character was very stereotyped. I want to wrap this thing up.
I thought by the time we got to the healing portion of the book that all of what I had to endure would have been worth it. It wasn’t.
I’m still wholly disappointed.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety, not clinically diagnosed, but self-diagnosed—I can totally understand not recognizing the anxiety for what it is.
I can also understand how someone might deal with their anxiety; in whatever way, they feel comfortable. Queenie dealt with everything by having a lot of sex. If I felt convinced by it I’d be able to excuse it. I can’t seem to get over her being used and abused by white men so steadily, easily and repeatedly.
When her friend suggests she date black men—which doesn’t fix the root problem. Queenie has an almost physical reaction to the idea. She mentions something about being afraid or uncomfortable with black men and then it was my turn to recoil. The author does not allow the character to explain this, and she definitely needed to. You don’t drop a bomb like that and leave the room.
I really wish I thought to highlight that portion.
Even after everything she still chose another white man; with whom she wound up arguing about black lives matter with, on the way to sleep with him.
It was a mess.
While I believe black readers will relate to Queenie’s “black” struggles, the rest is just frustrating and offensive.
Queenie digs into deep issues: discussing micro-aggressions in the workplace, the treatment and mistreatment of the black body by doctors; and the overall fear of mental work by psychologists and psychiatrists by the black family.
I thought it was relatable, no doubt about it, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to convince me that Queenie was the character we needed. It didn’t convince me that black lives mattered.
It amplified mental health issues in the black community and how it’s dealt with, but it was all surface; not digging deep enough to have any kind of real effect.
This book was disappointing and unenjoyable, at least it was for me. I don't recommend it. But to each his own.