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
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
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
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
A stunning account ... His powerful work of narrative nonfiction shows how Taylor victimized a slew of vulnerable people, was a victim herself, and was the cause of Black welfare recipients being stereotyped as "welfare cheats." ... Levin does a terrific job of balancing his portrait of a criminal, of the racism of police ... and of the widespread stereotyping of Blacks that grew out of her crimes and a president's distortions.
Levin nimbly explores Taylor's life in a story that becomes more complex the more it's revealed. The tale encompasses an astonishingly prolific criminal career as well as issues of race ... mental illness. amd self-invention, to say nothing of politics and the essentialism that Regan commonly practised ... A top-notch study of an exceedingly odd moment in history.
Another author would have used the 'welfare queen' as a jumping-off point to explore stereotypes, welfare politics and political rhetoric. Levin addresses all that, but his real goal is to put a face to Reagan's bogeywoman, tracking every alias, every scam, every duped husband and every dodged arrest. He presents Linda Taylor not as a parable for anything grand, but as a singular American scoundrel who represented nothing but herself... Part of the fun of Levin's book is burrowing inside his obsessive quest
Levin's brilliant exploration of the politics of welfare reform teaches an essential lesson. When myths and stereotypes predominate, facts, logic and evidence lose out . . . Levin's story calls upon us to think harder. Gripping.