THE QUEEN: The never-before-told story of a beguilingly complex American character, lost in the rush to create a vicious stereotype. For fans of incredible investigative writing in the vein of David Grann and John Carreyrou
'THE QUEEN is an invaluable work of non-fiction' - David Grann, Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon
This is the gripping true tale of a villain who changed American history.
In the 1970s, Linda Taylor became a fur-wearing, Cadillac-driving symbol of the undeserving poor - the original 'welfare queen'. In the press she was the ultimate template for this insidious stereotype; Ronald Reagan himself cited her criminal behaviour in his presidential campaign, turning public opinion firmly against state benefits and those who used them.
But Taylor was demonized for the least of her crimes. She was a con artist, a thief, a kidnapper, maybe even a murderer - and certainly one of the most gifted and deranged criminals of modern times.
THE QUEEN is the never-before-told story of a beguilingly complex American character, forgotten in the rush to create a vicious American myth.
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
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 - The New York Times Book Review
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 Black Water Rising
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
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
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. - Washington Post
Josh Levin is the editorial director of 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.