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The Queen
Cover of The Queen
The Queen
The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth
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Critically acclaimed, "reads like a detective story," (Washington Post) "one of the most outlandish true crime capers of the season," (Daily Beast) and the basis for the podcast The Queen, Slate editor...
Critically acclaimed, "reads like a detective story," (Washington Post) "one of the most outlandish true crime capers of the season," (Daily Beast) and the basis for the podcast The Queen, Slate editor...
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  • Critically acclaimed, "reads like a detective story," (Washington Post) "one of the most outlandish true crime capers of the season," (Daily Beast) and the basis for the podcast The Queen, Slate editor Josh Levin's "wild, only-in-America story" (Attica Locke, author of the Edgar Award winning Bluebird, Bluebird) of Linda Taylor, the original "welfare queen"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 exposé 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."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)

About the Author-

  • 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.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 27, 2019
    When Ronald Reagan campaigned for the presidency, he referred frequently to a Chicago woman who “used eighty names, thirty addresses, and twelve Social Security cards to collect all kinds of public benefits.” Reagan made that woman a symbol for “a whole class of people who were getting something they didn’t deserve” as part of his assault on the welfare state. Slate editorial director Levin’s dogged investigative work in his impressive debut reveals the truth behind Reagan’s claims, presenting the stranger-than-fiction story of that woman, who called herself Linda Taylor (among numerous other names). Taylor stole more than $150,000 in public assistance in one year, and had planned to “open a medical office, posing as a doctor.” Levin makes the complex narrative accessible by using an indefatigable Chicago police detective, Jack Sherwin, as his initial protagonist. In 1974, Sherwin responded to a bogus burglary complaint filed by Taylor, who alleged that the criminal had somehow managed to shove a jumbo fridge through a very small window. Sherwin’s probe into the suspicious “victim” revealed that Taylor was a recidivist scam artist. Levin uncovers more criminality in Taylor’s history—including child abuse, abduction, and a possible murder—spanning a half-century beginning in 1944. Levin’s piecing together of interviews, court documents, and other records paint as complete a picture as possible of an unrepentant career criminal who was turned into a stereotype for political purposes. Those interested in U.S. urban culture of another era will also be intrigued. Agent: Alia Habib, The Gernert Co.

  • AudioFile Magazine Identity theft takes on a new meaning in this mesmerizing biography/social study narrated by the adept January LaVoy. LaVoy, with her modulated, attentive tone, and author Levin, with his thorough research and clear writing style, both try to find the humanity in a woman who may have murdered three people, kidnapped and sold children, and defrauded public assistance programs. Strangely, she served time only for the latter charge--ripping off welfare programs for $7,000. But the "welfare queen" myth that she inspired helped elect Ronald Reagan (who wasn't afraid to embellish the charges against her) and propelled the post-Reagan anti-public assistance movement. Part history and part true crime, this is a sad but true story of lost identity. R.W.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine

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Josh Levin
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