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JOSH LEVIN discusses his new biography THE QUEEN with JULIA TURNER

The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth (Little Brown and Company)

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.

Praise for The Queen

"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 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.

Josh Levin photo by J. Seidman

Julia Turner is the deputy managing editor for arts and entertainment at the Los Angeles Times, where she oversees the paper’s coverage of culture and the entertainment industry. Prior to that, she was the editor-in-chief of Slate and also served at Slate as deputy editor, as culture editor, and as a reporter and critic covering television, media and design. For more than a decade, she's also been one of the co-hosts of the Slate Culture Gabfest podcast.

Julia Turner photo by Mel Melcon

Event date: 
Wednesday, May 29, 2019 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth Cover Image
$29.00
ISBN: 9780316513302
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown and Company - May 21st, 2019