Queenie (Carty-Williams)

Candice Carty-Williams, 2019
Gallery/Scout Press
336 pp.

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—South London, England, UK
Education—University of Sussex
Currently—lives in London

Candice Carty-Williams was born in London to a Jamaican-Indian hospital receptionist and a Jamaican taxicab driver. When she was two weeks old, her father came to visit. By his side (surprise!) was his pregnant wife and three children. It was the last she saw him.

Carty-Williams grew up as a lonely and unsure child, moving with her mother from place to place, all in South London, eventually living with her grandmother. It was a "really shitty" childhood, she told Fiona Sturges of the UK Guardian. Often overlooked by her elders—and compared to a more beautiful, older cousin—Carty-Williams she felt that she "would never be able to achieve anything."

But then, like so many shy children, Carty-Williams found refuge books, spending hours and days in the public library. Much later, in her early 20s, she discovered Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah: "I thought, Wow, someone gets it! The hair stuff!"

The idea of writing was a revelation, yet working full-time and in debt, Carty-Williams never believed she would be able to write a book. In recognition of that uphill battle—for untested and underrepresented writers—in 2016 she created and launched the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize to champion and celebrate their talents.

Later the same year, she saw that JoJo Myers (of Me Before You fame) was offering a week-long writing workshop at her home in Suffolk. Carty-Williams applied and was accepted into the program. That week she began writing … and writing … and writing. By the end of the week she had piled up 40,000 words—for what would become her first book. "It felt a bit like an outpouring. I think Queenie had been brewing for a very long time," she told the Guardian.

Three years later, in 2019, her novel Queenie was published, garnering solid reviews. Still, despite all the attention Queenie sent her way, Carty-Williams has kept her day job: working as a senior marketing executive at Vintage.

She has also contributed regularly to i-D, Refinery29, BEAT Magazine, and more, and her pieces, especially those about blackness, sex, and identity, have been shared globally. (Adapted from the publisher and The Guardian.)

Book Reviews
An irresistible portrait of a young Jamaican-British woman living in London that grows deeper as it goes.
Entertainment Weekly

Meet Queenie Jenkins, a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman who works for a London newspaper, is struggling to fit in, is dealing with a breakup, and is making all kinds of questionable decisions. In other words, she's highly relatable. A must read for 2019.
Woman's Day

They say Queenie is Black Bridget Jones meets Americanah. But she stands in her own right—nothing can and will compare. I can't articulate how completely and utterly blown away I am.
Black Girls Book Club

You'll likely feel seen while reading this (yes, it's that relatable), an example of what happens when you go looking for love and find something else instead.

You’ll read Queenie, a novel about a young Jamaican British woman trying to find her place in London, in one day. It’s that good.
Hello Giggles

(Starred review) [S]mart, fearless…. Carty-Williams doesn’t shy from the messiness of sexual relationships, racial justice…and the narrative is all the more effective for its boldness. This is an essential depiction of life as a black woman… told in a way that makes Queenie dynamic and memorable.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review) Carty-Williams creates an utterly knowable character in Queenie, who's as dimensional and relatable as they come as she tries to balance her own desires with what everyone else seems to want for her... This smart, funny, and tender debut embraces a modern woman's messiness.

(Starred review) The life and loves of Queenie Jenkins, a vibrant, troubled 25-year-old Jamaican Brit who is not having a very good year. Why she ever fell for that drip Tom… [is] never at all clear, but perhaps that's how these things go. A black Bridget Jones, perfectly of the moment.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. What were your first impressions of Queenie? Did you like her? Were you surprised to hear the story behind Queenie’s name? How does hearing the story from Sylvie affect Queenie? Do you think that Sylvie chose a fitting name for Queenie? Explain your answer.

2. Queenie tells Tom, "Well, your family; it’s what a family should be" (p. 293). Discuss her statement. What is it about Tom’s family that Queenie finds so appealing? Compare her family to Tom’s. Did you find Queenie’s family to be supportive? Why or why not?

3. Describe the structure of Queenie. What’s the effect of the shifting time frame? How do the flashbacks help you better understand Queenie and her relationship with Tom? Do the texts and emails that are included also help you better understand what Queenie is thinking? If so, how?

4. When Cassandra says that Kyazike’s name is "like Jessica without the ‘ic’ in the middle," Kyazike corrects her, saying, "No. Like my own name. Not some… Western name. Chess. Keh" (p. 170). Explain her reaction. Why is it important for Kyazike to correct Cassandra’s assertion? Why does hearing Kyazike’s name impress Queenie when they first meet?

5. After Queenie pitches an article designed to shine a light on the Black Lives Matter movement, one of her colleagues responds by saying, "All that Black Lives Matter nonsense.… All lives matter" (p. 376). Discuss Queenie’s reaction to this assertion. What’s her counterargument? Why is it so important for her to cover the movement?

6. Gina tells Queenie, "Whenever I’ve had a huge upheaval, my mother has always said, 'Keep one foot on the ground when two are in the air'" (p. 224). Why does she offer Queenie this advice? Were you surprised by the kindness that she shows Queenie? Do you think Gina is a good boss? Would you want to work for her? Why or why not?

7. After a conversation with Darcy, Queenie thinks, "I wished that well-meaning white liberals would think before they said things that they thought were perfectly innocent" (p. 178). What does Darcy say that leads to Queenie’s reaction? Think about the comment. Why is it so charged? How does Darcy’s comment highlight the differences between Queenie’s and Darcy’s experiences?

8. What did you think of Guy? Why does Queenie spend time with him? How does she describe their interactions to her friends? Contrast the reality of their interactions to what Queenie tells her friends. Why do you think that Queenie romanticizes the details?

9. According to Queenie, Darcy, Cassandra, and Kyazike "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" (p. 174). What part of Queenie’s life does each woman represent? Describe their friendships. What does each woman bring to Queenie’s life? Do you think that they’re good friends to her? Why or why not?

10. Queenie’s grandmother tells her, "If you are sad, you have to try not to be," causing Queenie to muse that "all of my grandmother’s responses come with a Caribbean frame of reference that forces me to accept that my problems are trivial" (p. 46). How does Queenie’s grandmother deal with problems? How does she react when Queenie broaches the subject of getting counseling, and why?

11. Janet asks Queenie "what do you see, when you look in the mirror, when you think about yourself as a person" (p. 510)? Why is this such a difficult question for Queenie to answer? How would you describe her? If someone posed this question to you, how would you answer it?

12. What did you think of Queenie’s lists? Are they effective in helping her navigate stressful situations? What’s the effect of including them in the novel? How do the lists help propel the story forward? Did you learn anything interesting about Queenie from her list of New Year’s Resolutions? If so, why?

13. Sylvie feels that she "let [Queenie] down, I should have been better to her, that way she might have been better herself" (p. 315). Why did Sylvie leave? How did her departure affect Queenie? Describe their relationship. How does it evolve throughout the novel?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2020