The Queen (Hardcover)

The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth

By Josh Levin

Little, Brown and Company, 9780316513302, 432pp.

Publication Date: May 21, 2019

Other Editions of This Title:
Compact Disc (5/21/2019)
Compact Disc (5/21/2019)

List Price: 29.00*
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Description

Named one of the New York Times' 14 books to watch out for in May

Slate editor Josh Levin's masterful account of the life and crimes of America's original welfare queen is "an invaluable work of nonfiction." (David Grann, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon)

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.

"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 the Edgar Award winning Bluebird, Bluebird)


About the Author

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.


Praise For The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth

"The verve and humor of Levin's writing mirrors the brazenness of the crimes Taylor committed...Taylor is like a one-person, low-rent "Ocean's 11,"and you can't help but marvel at the ingenuity with which she kept it up for decades. Neither can Levin, who ends virtually every chapter with a cliffhanger, tantalizing us with clues to Taylor's next big scam. But there's a bigger, and grimmer, story here, and Levin gives it its due."—Chris Hewitt, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"Levin tells this story with a forceful combination of empathy and rigor... The Queen is a powerful reminder to ask what stories lie behind the ones that catch the public eye."—Washington City Paper

"[Levin's] portrait of [Taylor] is unflinching; so is his portrayal of the demagogues who profited from her story."—Boris Kachka, Vulture's 8 New Books You Should Read This May

"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, #1 New York Times bestselling 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 the Edgar Award winning Bluebird, Bluebird

"For decades, Linda Taylor has been demagogued by politicians and the press, reduced to a cruel stereotype: the welfare queen shamelessly leeching from government coffers. Through meticulous reporting, Josh Levin's The Queen illuminates in full the story of a life far more complicated, cunning, criminal, tragic and fascinating than the historical stereotype would have ever allowed us to see."—Wesley Lowery, author of They Can't Kill Us All

"It is impossible to read The Queen without pausing every few pages to marvel at either the brilliance of Josh Levin's research or the sheer wildness of the tale. By pouring years of devotion into piecing together Linda Taylor's bizarre criminal odyssey, Levin has created a work of American history like no other-an enthralling portrait of a nation whose splendid promise has too often been distorted by prejudice and political cynicism."—Brendan I. Koerner, author of The Skies Belong to Us and Now the Hell Will Start

"A presidential campaign, constructed from a scaffolding of bigotry. Unbridled backlash against the poor. Ideological agendas paving over the truth and ignoring real victims. Josh Levin's The Queen is both an unforgettable story and a vital way of understanding how we got to our current political crossroads. This is a crucial, important book."—Robert Kolker, author of The Lost Girls

"Josh Levin's delicious deep dive into the true story of Ronald Reagan's welfare queen unwraps a bizarre and entertaining yarn of a grifter's journey through the infernal levels of racism, sexism, sensational journalism, slipshod law enforcement, and the twisted family values that brought us from 20th-century America to where we are now."—Robert Lipsyte, author of SportsWorld: An American Dreamland


"An upcoming biography by journalist Josh Levin about Linda Taylor, the Chicago woman whose complicated story was demonized and manipulated by politicians and press (namely, the Chicago Tribune, according to Levin's account) until she was Ronald Reagan's infamous 'welfare queen'...It's tempting to describe Levin's masterful book as alternate history of 1980s Chicago. But no - again, it's this Chicago, on this planet, not twisted on its head, only righted."—Christopher Borrelli, The Chicago Tribune

"It's about Linda Taylor, the 'Cadillac-driving welfare queen in Chicago'' that Pres. Reagan referenced in a 1983 speech about rampant defrauding of government anti-poverty programs...Her story helped popularize stereotype about lazy Black people on the dole...But the focus on her welfare grifting meant people mostly ignored the more sinister crimes she was implicated in - like kidnappings and murders! Anyway, it's a wild book."—Gene Demby, NPR Books

"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, starred review

"Levin, the national editor of Slate, writes a stunning account of Linda Taylor, the woman famously tagged as a "welfare queen" in the 1970s. His powerful work of narrative nonfiction...demonstrates how a single distortion can ruin lives...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

"Slate editorial director Levin's dogged investigative work in his impressive debut reveals...the stranger-than-fiction story of [a] woman who called herself Linda Taylor (among numerous other names)."—Publishers Weekly

"A jaw-dropping, just astonishing feat of reporting...the sensitivity with which he writes about [Linda Taylor's] childhood and history...is fascinating."—Slate's Culture Gabfest

"In The Queen, Slate editor John Levin takes a holistic approach to Taylor's story, relaying the details of her early life, her crimes, and her unexpected turn as a national debating point, exposing some uncomfortable truths about the era's attitudes, so many of which persist today."—CrimeReads, The Best Crime Non-Fiction Books of May 2019

"Levin, an editor at Slate, returns us to a former era of uproar...in doing so complicating political and cultural debates that have survived to this day."—Talya Zax, The Forward

"In his book The Queen, journalist Josh Levin tells the life story of this footnote character in American political history, and finds that the crime for which she is remembered was just a minor incident in a life of theft and deception."—Edward McClelland, Chicago Magazine

"Levin writes with sympathy. Themes of rejection, racial confusion and possible mental illness create a strong undercurrent beneath this fascinating story."—Alden Mudge, BookPage