Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams is about a young Jamaican British woman trying to navigate her way through the perils of life. She works at a national newspaper, where she is constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers and after a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in the wrong places…including several questionable men. It’s about her journey to self-discovery and how she manages to find her footing in a world that can be seen as so daunting.
So this particular book actually inspired this blog. It was recommended to me by a friend and I honestly wish I heard about it sooner.
It’s one of the reasons I will always preach that representation is important. It matters. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
This book is about self-worth and actually understanding that you have to put yourself first before anyone else. Regardless of whether you’re male or female, I think this book actually has a lot of good points. It ties in so closely to my next post that I knew I was going to have to review it first.
Candice Carty-Williams wrote a novel that played on themes of familial love and self-worth. The importance of accepting your flaws was a prevalent message that I took to heart. In addition, she points out how difficult it is to release something that is toxic to your mental state of mind. However, the liberation that comes with letting go is profound.
I have to talk about the front cover for a second. The braids…the hoops…the edges. I loved it because there was no denying it was a black girl even though there was no face, which I think was done deliberately. This book was relatable in some aspect to every black girl out there. The faceless image on the front only emphasised it.
If I had to describe Queenie in two words, it would be ‘refreshingly honest’. Queenie, as a character was very relatable. She wasn’t perfect. She was impulsive, passionate and irrational. She had low moments and high moments which I guess is the beauty of life. She sought love in men that treated her badly which, broke my heart at times. She struggled but that was okay. When she hit an extremely low point, Candice Carty-Williams emphasised that this was okay too. The incident is never the problem…the consequences and your reaction is what will have the lasting effects. She’s a queen in her own right because of her growth.
I guess it’s funny because I immediately got the significance of her name. Being that black women tend to call each other Queens as a way to uplift each other. It’s beautifully symbolic that Queenie is relatable to every single black woman in some way or another. Additionally, ‘Queen’ representing strength and power, only serves to indicate that she will continue to prevail. The very last sentence of the book only reinforces the victory that is coming Queenie’s way. It’s a full circle moment that makes you smile as you realise just how far Queenie has come from the beginning of the book. Her strength and her growth has been astounding.
Growing up, I struggled to find books about black culture…let alone books about Caribbean families. Queenie seemed almost too good to be true. I could even hear the accent of her Grandparents in my head as I was reading. It was the small things such as the recognition of culture, that placed Queenie miles ahead in terms of great novels. Candice Carty-Williams really highlighted that it wasn’t just black culture she was presenting…it was Jamaican culture.
The two are very different. What most authors tend to do is make Black characters have one culture – all under the umbrella term of black culture. I can’t speak for Americans but I know Black British culture is made up of many different countries, each with their own dishes, dialects and behaviours. Candice Carty-Williams taking the time to appreciate that small difference was phenomenal. All I can say as a young Caribbean woman myself…I completely 100% stan this.
Carty-Williams also touched on the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, such as depression, in Caribbean culture. Granted, this is something that is slowly improving. However, most of the older generation are struggling to come to terms with it. Through, Queenie and her grandmother’s relationship, we witness first hand just how much it is deliberately ignored. I can’t actually pinpoint a reason as to why that is. Candice Carty-Williams hints at her own reasons within the novel. I came to the conclusion that the older generation simply do not understand it and some choose not to educate themselves on it.
It’s a very subtle message that I hope the Caribbean community actually listen to. It would really make a difference.
I deliberated discussing the fact she seeks love from white men and white men only. Simply because in the beginning I didn’t understand. What was wrong with black men? Why did she completely avoid them when all the men she seemed to date after her long-term relationship treat her badly. Most of them only choosing to fetishise her. Don’t even get me started on her poor excuse of an ex-boyfriend, who allowed his family to make comments about her skin colour that were uncomfortable and quite frankly, outright rude. It soon became clear that there were deep rooted issues that meant she avoided black men altogether. It was heart-breaking once the reason was revealed. I understood why she avoided them but it was still frustrating to read. I was so happy when she finally let all of that go. She seemed content to wait for her time, which was really refreshing.
At first, I thought she sought solace in sex. But after reading more, I soon realised she was after love. She wanted to feel happiness and love but went about it the wrong way.
Instant gratification never lasts long and all it does is make you feel even more depressed.
It’s another key message in this book that spoke volumes to me.
I honestly believe this generation has a huge with problem with instant gratification. We want things now. We don’t like waiting. I, for one, struggle with patience. But majority of the time, patience is necessary.
“Good things comes to those who wait.”
I’m pretty sure, everybody has heard this saying at least once in your lifetime. Queenie is only a representation of this.
Waiting is key. I’m not saying don’t work hard for what you want at all. But be patient with it. Keep at it and don’t get angry if you don’t see results straight away. So whether your waiting for therapy to work, or to get the big break at your job or whether it’s simply just waiting for the right person to sweep you off your feet – all things Queenie struggles with.
Your time is coming.