queenie (yes, that’s her real name, and you better not ask her if it is) is 26 years old. when the love of her life wants to take what she understands to be a “break,” sh*t hits the fan. she experiences severe anxiety and panic attacks, turns to shallow attention from men who do not truly care about her, and lets her performance at work slip. she also feels overwhelmed with fear and sadness about violence and discrimination against people of color. she wants to make a difference in her community–one that she loves dearly and feels slipping away from her because of gentrification–but is drowning in her personal problems and cannot bring herself to do anything about it. this book taught me a lot about a human experience that i did not/do not have; it’s simple: i am a white american female. i could not possibly fully understand queenie’s life. however, i could very much relate to her struggles with anxiety, holding on to the past, and wondering how to shed her/my baggage in order to live up to her/my fullest potential. and i am so grateful that the author, candice carty-williams, opened my eyes to queenie’s story.
“The fireworks started, and we all watched in silence. I looked at my three friends, the lights exploding in the sky and illuminating their beautiful faces. They all represented a different part of my life, had all come to me at different times; why they’d all stuck with me, I was constantly trying to work out.”
“Then, we marched. We all walked, in droves, toward the Brixton police station, the atmosphere electric, the crowd not angry, not aggressive, but charged. Charged and wanting answers, wanting to be heard.”
“The shops where she’d buy Jamaican bun and bright orange cheese for our Sunday afternoon treat, the fabric stalls where she’d choose cloth for curtains, the pound shops where I was allowed to buy one thing and one thing only–these had all gone, making room for trendy new vegan bars and independent boutiques selling shockingly priced men’s fashion. When had this happened? When had the space that I had known like the back of my hand, the only area I’d ever been to that I felt like I could be myself in, the place where so many people looked like me, talked like my family–when had it gone?”
“I looked first at Gina, then around the room to see if anyone was going to back me up. Instead, I was met with what I’d been trying to pretend hadn’t always been a room full of white not-quite-liberals whose opinions, like their money, had been inherited.”
“How could I have been so selfish, how couldn’t I have seen? This tiny, meek woman being swallowed by an armchair was the same woman who’d stared to raise me, the woman who’d been so obsessed with me that we wore matching outfits until I was eight, who always told me that I was strong enough to be a queen. She’d been so mentally and physically battered by men that she couldn’t find her voice anymore. But she was still my mum.”
“Though I felt exhausted, probably from the fainting, I also felt as though some weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t feel brighter. Just lighter.”