A brilliant interrogation of the “chick lit” genre, Queenie starts off slow, with the usual plot points: career woman struggles with career and the quest for the perfect life and the perfect man. But about 100 pages in, Candace Carty-Williams begins to unravel this aggressively normative genre. And by the novel’s midpoint, Queenie is beginning to question her entire quest for male attention, heteronormative desirability, and what she has been willing to sacrifice to attract men.
As a white woman who has experienced my share of assault and predation, I found the novel both deeply empowering and eye-opening. Queenie, as a black woman in London, survives everything I’ve had to contend with and then some. The level of violence, objectification, and gaslighting from the white men who pursue her, then use her, is a gut-wrenching exploration of the ways sexism and racism can intersect in the dating world.
The novel really hits its stride, though, as Carty-Williams dives headlong into the childhood traumas that have left Queenie so vulnerable to abuse. We voyage alongside her as she moves into a deeper understanding of herself, her family, and the intergenerational patterns that she is daring to break. By the end, I was cheering out loud for every choice Queenie makes. Ultimately, Carty-Williams reminds her readers that a woman’s happiness depends not on the men who desire her but on her own self-love and the family and friends she has invested in. A deeply rewarding feminist read.