The Queen: Book summary and reviews of The Queen by Josh Levin

The Queen

The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth

by Josh Levin

The Queen by Josh Levin X
The Queen by Josh Levin
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  • Publishes in USA 
    May 21, 2019
    432 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

On the South Side of Chicago in 1974, Linda Taylor reported a phony burglary, concocting a lie about stolen furs and jewelry. The detective who checked it out soon discovered she was a welfare cheat who drove a Cadillac to collect ill-gotten government checks. And that was just the beginning.

Taylor, it turned out, was also a kidnapper, and possibly a murderer. A desperately ill teacher, a combat-traumatized Marine, an elderly woman hungry for companionship-after Taylor came into their lives, all three ended up dead under suspicious circumstances. But nobody-not the journalists who touted her story, not the police, and not presidential candidate Ronald Reagan-seemed to care about anything but her welfare thievery.

Growing up in the Jim Crow South, Taylor was made an outcast because of the color of her skin. As she rose to infamy, the press and politicians manipulated her image to demonize poor black women. Part social history, part true-crime investigation, Josh Levin's mesmerizing book, the product of six years of reporting and research, is a fascinating account of American racism, and an expose of the "welfare queen" myth, one that fueled political debates that reverberate to this day. The Queen tells, for the first time, the fascinating story of what was done to Linda Taylor, what she did to others, and what was done in her name.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Levin nimbly explores Taylor's life in a story that becomes more complex the more it's revealed...As the author shows in this excellent piece of true-crime writing, Taylor's case is entirely rare, but the potent political symbolism it inspired certainly did no favors to those who truly needed welfare assistance in the years since." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Levin does a terrific job of balancing his portrait of a criminal, of the racism of police who didn't bother to solve the three murders connected to Taylor, and of the widespread stereotyping of Blacks that grew out of her crimes and a president's distortions." - Booklist (starred review)

"In the finest tradition of investigative reporting, Josh Levin exposes how a story that once shaped the nation's conscience was clouded by racism and lies. As he stunningly reveals, the deeper truth, the messy truth, tells us something much larger about who we are. The Queen is an invaluable work of nonfiction." - David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon

"The Queen is a wild, only-in-America story that helped me understand my country better. It's a fascinating portrait of a con artist and a nation...and the ways the United States continually relies on oversimplified narratives about race and class to shape public policy, almost always at the expense of brown people and poor people." - Attica Locke, author of Bluebird, Bluebird

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Author Information

Josh Levin

Josh Levin is the national editor at Slate and the host of the sports podcast Hang Up and Listen. He previously worked at the Washington City Paper and has written for Sports Illustrated, the Atlantic, GQ, and Play: The New York Times Sports Magazine. He was born and raised in New Orleans and is a graduate of Brown University. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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