The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel: Stuff We Didn't Actually Do, but Could Have, and May Yet

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Overview

“I have no pride. I tell anything,” Jill Conner Browne is fond of saying. As Her Royal Highness, Boss Queen of the Sweet Potato Queens,® she has told legions of fans, known as “SPQ Wannabes,” her delectable secrets to living, loving - and eating - like a queen. In her words, “More is more.”

How much more? The #1 New York Times bestselling author of five works of nonfiction now serves up The Sweet Potato Queens’ First Big-Ass Novel: Stuff We Didn’t Actually Do, But Could Have, and May Yet. The humor in this ...

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Overview

“I have no pride. I tell anything,” Jill Conner Browne is fond of saying. As Her Royal Highness, Boss Queen of the Sweet Potato Queens,® she has told legions of fans, known as “SPQ Wannabes,” her delectable secrets to living, loving - and eating - like a queen. In her words, “More is more.”

How much more? The #1 New York Times bestselling author of five works of nonfiction now serves up The Sweet Potato Queens’ First Big-Ass Novel: Stuff We Didn’t Actually Do, But Could Have, and May Yet. The humor in this uproarious coming-of-queen novel is more delicious than a favorite dessert (the Queens favor Chocolate Stuff, ™ of course).

In Jackson, Mississippi, Mary Bennett, Patsy, Gerald, and Jill are high school classmates whose daily routine is paced like a shuffle through the local red dirt - until the arrival of a redheaded newcomer banishes monotony forever. With her luxurious mane and voluptuous figure, Tammy Myers aspires to join the silver-spooners, who make things happen in their lives. When Jill convinces Tammy and the others that money might buy a certain kind of good time and that true friendship has no price tag, the “Sweet Potato Queens” are born. “If it ain’t fun, we ain’t doin’ it,” runs their official club motto, and the Queens are true to their word.

Together, the Queens laugh out loud as they step down the long - and not altogether pretty - road toward making their very own queen dust, the sparkle that comes from livin’ and lovin’ their own lives. The Sweet Potato Queens’ First Big-Ass Novel: Stuff We Didn’t Actually Do, But Could Have, and May Yet reveals that the journey isn’t always easy, but in the company of the Queens, you can sparkle, too.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In her first "big-ass novel," chief Sweet Potato Queen Jill Conner Browne pours on the gravy with hilarious romps through southern weddings, funerals, and first dates; not necessarily in that order. Aided by Bottom Dollar Girls impresario Karin Gillespie, Browne choreographs the exploits and accidents of five SPQs from high school years onward with an infectious abandon that readers of her nonfiction bestsellers will instantly recognize. A hoot and a holler.

Publishers Weekly
After five nonfiction bestsellers, Browne leaps into fiction (with assistance by Bottom Dollar Girls creator Karin Gillespie) and delivers a GEN-U-WINE page-turner of a novel. Fans won't be surprised that Browne's combination of bawdy humor and self-empowerment affirmations easily translates in novel form. An unexpected delight is how deftly Browne creates fully dimensional supporting characters surrounding her first-person narrator, Jill Connor. (In her nonfiction adventures, all the other queens are named Tammy and intentionally blend together.) Beginning in 1968 with five high school misfits thrown together, Browne traces the core members of the Sweet Potato Queens through two decades of weddings, funerals and disastrous relationships. While readers learn the origins of "The Promise" and the motto "Never wear panties to a party," Browne also invents some new lingo (tyrants at work are "bossholes" and men adept in bed "know about the little man in the boat"). Fans of the Queen's artery-choking recipes are in luck; after the final chapter, Browne offers menu items from Rest in Peace, a restaurant the Queens would love to open that would only serve food found at Southern funerals. Browne's hilarious and heartwarming debut sets sturdy groundwork for future fictional follies. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

More vignette than novel, this is the tale of a group of Southern gals and a gay guy as they help one another through marriages, divorces, funerals, and other life experiences, served up with plenty of wit in roughly five-year updates. The characters are colorful and likable, but the humor is mostly coarse and overly peppered with profanities. The book seems more an inconsistent retelling of Browne's previous nonfiction material now cast in a fiction mold rather than a tour de force of fresh, new stories. Browne's reading of her work is clear and solid. Also included are some recipes and an interview with the author. Recommended for larger libraries or for adult chick-lit collections.
—Denise A. Garofalo

Kirkus Reviews
Five high-school friends from Jackson, Miss., forge an enduring bond, based on their mutual belief in each other's fabulousness. As an antidote to the snooty clubs that won't have them, offbeat teens Jill, Mary Bennett, Patsy, Tammy and Gerald come together to form the Sweet Potato Queens, founded on the principle "If it ain't fun, we ain't doing it." Sharing humor and outsider status in school, the pals regularly get together to eat lots of pork and to gossip, and each year they dress in red wigs and sequin gowns and attend the St. Patrick's Day parade. The friends remain close long after graduation, despite taking divergent paths. Rich-girl-with-a-secret Mary Bennett heads off to soap-star fame in Hollywood; Gerald (to no one's surprise) comes out in San Francisco; and beautiful aspiring singer Tammy becomes a local TV weathergirl who drowns her numerous insecurities in a string of extramarital affairs. Midwestern-transplant Patsy moves to Atlanta and becomes a mom, while Boss Queen Jill muddles through a dull job and even duller love life. Tall and athletic, she eventually hits her stride, finding satisfaction as an in-demand personal trainer and a popular local columnist. Meanwhile, the queens experience the requisite laughter, tears and general messiness of life, all culminating in a last-minute London intervention to save Tammy from her latest bad decision. This fictionalized account of the origins of Browne's real-life SPQs (The Sweet Potato Queens' Wedding Planner and Divorce Guide, not reviewed, etc.) has a slapdash feel. Co-written with Gillespie, author of the Bottom Dollar Girls series, it reads less like a novel than what it is: the latest extension of this successfulsouthern-fried brand. Breezy, but likely to move only existing fans of the Sweet Potato Queens. First printing of 250,000
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743278270
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 1/2/2007
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jill Conner Browne
Jill Conner Browne, New York Times bestselling author and Boss Queen, tours and speaks full-time about all things Queenly. She is the author of The Sweet Potato Queens’ First Big-Ass Novel; The Sweet Potato Queens’ Wedding Planner/Divorce Guide; The Sweet Potato Queens’ Field Guide to Men: Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay, or Dead; The Sweet Potato Queens’ Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner); God Save the Sweet Potato Queens; and The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi.

Karin Gillespie is the author of the Bottom Dollar Girls series, Bet Your Bottom Dollar, A Dollar Short, and Dollar Daze. She lives in Augusta, Georgia. Visit her on the web at www.karingillespie.com.

Biography

Those without a sense of humor need not read any further.

Now that that's out of the way, welcome to the world of Jill Conner Browne, self-proclaimed "Sweet Potato Queen" and internationally-proclaimed fabulously funny writer of romantic advice, tantalizingly tasty recipes, and -- now, for the first time -- rip-roaring fiction! While Browne is no doubt the queen-bee of the Sweet Potato set, apparently there are factions of other such queens all across the nation. You may even have one in your very own neighborhood; they can always be recognized by their flashy sunglasses, even flashier red fright wigs, their sly pseudonyms of "Tammy" (which they acquire to ‘protect their identities'), and the chilly margaritas inevitably clenched in their hands. The illustrious Sweet Potato Queens have all loved and lost, maybe they're approaching middle-age, and they certainly enjoy a bawdy tale as much as a frosty beverage. As their ranks continue to grow, Jill Conner Browne's popularity and success does, as well -- which is quite an improvement over her less than ideal beginnings.

About fifteen years ago, Browne was awash in financial troubles, twice divorced, and responsible for a little girl and a sickly mother. To combat her less-than-glamorous life, she and a clutch of friends took on the absurdly glamorous personas of the Sweet Potato Queens, parading around the streets of Mississippi in a sweet potato farm truck, dolled up in outrageous tiaras and feather boas. Soon enough the Sweet Potato Queens became something of a local phenomenon, which Browne parlayed into hilariously in-your-face columns about love, life, family, and men. The publication of her very first book The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love followed. The volume was an all-out explosion of ribald, good-natured advice (ex: "The True Magic Words Guaranteed to Get Any Man to Do Your Bidding") and, of course, a smashing recipe for the perfect margarita. With the massive success of Browne's first book, her life suddenly took a turn for the better and she became one of the hottest writers going. Her uproarious sequel God Save the Sweet Potato Queens solidified Browne's status as a role model for other women looking to break out of their shells. The book offered up more advice ("Dating for the advanced, or advancing"; "The joys of marriage -- if you must"), as well as more lip-smacking recipes.

Such recipes were the chief focus of The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner) , a carefree compendium of secret recipes ("The Gooiest Cake in the World"; "Bitch Bar Bacon Swimps") and some tongue-in-cheek financial advice ("Hope that Daddy lives forever").

By now, the Sweet Potato Queens had grown into a veritable nationwide army, eager to devour new titles like The Sweet Potato Queens' Field Guide to Men and The Sweet Potato Queens' Wedding Planner/Divorce Guide. With The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel, Browne's first foray into fiction, the origin of the Queens is finally (and fictionally) revealed. Publishers Weekly for one hopes that Conner's debut as a novelist is just the beginning of her fiction career, declaring it "a GEN-U-WINE page-turner of a novel" and rhapsodizing, "Browne's hilarious and heartwarming debut sets sturdy groundwork for future fictional follies."

Good To Know

Now that Browne has introduced the world to the Sweet Potato Queens via her hilarious books, she is continuing to spread the word in person. She regularly does public appearance tours in which she speaks "about all things Queenly."

Browne is not the only writer in the Conner clan. Her sister Judy is the author of the similarly humorous Southern Fried Divorce.

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Read an Excerpt

The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel

Stuff We Didn't Actually Do, but Could Have, and May Yet
By Jill Conner Browne

Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2007 Jill Conner Browne
All right reserved.



Chapter 1

In Jackson, the "beautiful people" were separated from the great unwashed by a short strip of blacktop called Yazoo Road. If you lived north of Yazoo, like Marcy Stevens did, you peed champagne and blew your nose in silk. If you lived south -- as I did -- you peed Dixie Beer and blew your nose in burlap. We were shit. They were Shinola.

By my junior year at Peebles High, I had finished metamorphosing and was looking just fine, pretty even, when I was stopped in my tracks by a veritable vision. There, in the halls of my humble high school, stood the woman who, if God had loved me just a little bit better, would have been reflected in my mirror every morning. The tiny creature had a massive mane of red hair and big breasts. I still covet it all -- the tits, the tininess, and oh, mercy, that fabulous hair. All of her wondrous voluptuousness was supported by the most precious little feet you could ever imagine. She was so pretty and delicate I figured she likely hailed from the snooty part of town.

Red hadn't noticed me gaping at her, because she was struggling mightily with her locker. She gave the combination lock one last turn and when she couldn't open it, a not-so-nice word spewed from her Cupid's-bow lips.

"Durn" and "heckfire" were two acceptable cusswordsfor all but the overly Baptist kids. There was also the frequently used "shoot," which Southerners drawl into the longest word in the English language (shooooooooooooooooooooooooooot!). And even though most folks knew that "shoot" was just "shit" with eyeglasses on, you could get away with saying it during those innocent times as long as your granny wasn't in the same room.

But little Miss Tiny Feet wasn't "durning," "heckfiring," or even "shooting," she was using the granddaddy of all curse words. (The one we solemnly referred to as the "fire truck" word because it started and ended with the same letters.)

Even a potty-mouth like myself respected the F-word as cussing's fine china: I only drug it out for very special occasions. But Little Miss Redhead was saying it over and over. Maybe she wasn't quite the rich-girl-china-doll she appeared to be at first glance.

As I got closer, I also noticed her clothes were completely wrong. She wore the snob-city uniform of a twin set and skirt, but her sweater was a bit too tight and there were picks and pulls -- signs of repeated wearings -- in the Banlon knit. The silver-spooners wore perfectly smooth Breck girl flips and pageboys, but her hair was big -- too big, and teased up like a red space helmet -- and her blush and powder was a half inch thick.

"You new here?" I asked her. "Seems like you're having some trouble."

"I can't get in my fuckin' locker," she said with a sigh when she saw it was just big ol' me. "I tried, and now I'm fucking late for home ec."

"Why don't you let me give it a spin?" I offered, marveling at the fire trucks flying out of her lacquered lips.

She gratefully handed me her combination, and I took to twirling the dial until the locker popped open. Inside was a photo of the Beatles, a smiley-face sticker, and a textbook called Adventures in Home Living.

"Thank you so much!" she said. "My name's Tammy."

"I'm Jill."

"Nice to meet you, Jill. I just moved here from Killeen, Texas, and don't know a fuckin' soul." She pointed to a poster on the wall that read "Key Club Information Meeting at 2 p.m. today in the gym. Open to All Interested High School Girls." "I was thinking I'd join this. Are you going?" she asked with what would have been a beautifully executed hair toss except that not a single one of her heavily Aqua-Netted hairs moved from its appointed spot in her coiffure.

"No," I said, quickly.

"Why not?"

"I wouldn't fit in. It's mostly for girls who live north of Yazoo Road," I said, hoping she'd take the hint.

"It says it's 'open to all high school girls,'" Tammy said.

"They have to say that 'cause the first meeting is held on school property, but they're very particular in their membership. Their favorite activity is listing all the people who they WON'T let join."

"Well, lucky for me I do live north of Yazoo Road," she said with a smile. "Guess I better get to class. Thanks so much for helping me, Jill."

I'd heard they had some mighty big hair out in Texas, but a style like Tammy's wouldn't get her into the Key Club. And the first time she let fly with a fire truck, they'd fall over in a faint -- or pretend to, anyway.

Our lunch group was no Key Club. We ate outside on the steps of the vocational building. I settled beside Mary Bennett, who had a pronounced Southern accent. Where one syllable would do, she used three, saying my name so it came out like "Ji-ay-all." Bennett wasn't Mary's last name. It was part of her first name, kinda like Billie Sue or Betty Lou.

Unlike the rest of our lunchmates, Mary Bennett lived north of Yazoo Road in a sprawling English Tudor, and if it weren't for a tiny little problem of hers, she'd be having her pimento cheese sandwich (or "sammich," as we say in the South) and bottle of grape Nehi under the cool shade of a large magnolia tree with the other silver-spooners instead of shuffling around in the red dirt with us.

Back then, when people talked about Mary Bennett -- and Lord knows they did -- they would say (with an appropriately breathless whisper) that she had a rep-u-tay-shun: She was Fast -- which, by the litmus test for Whoredom at Peebles, meant she'd made out with more than five boys and not only KNEW what all the Bases were, it was rumored that she'd been to some of them. Plus, she had pierced ears, and our mamas assured us that "only whores had pierced ears." We all wanted them, naturally.

"Can I help it if I have a strong sex-shu-al appetite?" she'd say, hand pressed against her chest in an aggrieved manner.

I was unwrapping my sandwich when Mary Bennett sniffed her armpits.

"I think I need to have me a little whore's bath."

"Every bath you take's a whore's bath, Mary Bennett," Gerald said, nibbling primly on the last bit of his PB&J on white bread. Gerald had unruly, wiry hair, which he slathered with a combination of hair relaxer and Brylcreem; his attempt at a "hairstyle" looked sorta like Buckwheat's -- with a side of scented Crisco.

Mary Bennett grinned. She had one of those lazy, sexy smiles, which opened slowly like a bud blooming in slow-motion photography.

"Aren't you sharp on the uptake this afternoon, Geraldine," she said with a low chuckle. "Maybe you'd like to give me that bath?"

"I'd be honored," Gerald said, blowing her a kiss. He had the longest eyelashes I'd ever seen on a boy.

That was part of their routine. Mary Bennett propositioned Gerald, and Gerald acted as if he were happy to oblige her. Nothing ever came of it.

Mary Bennett opened her sandwich and poked her nose inside. "I'm so tired of pimento cheese. Whatcha got, Jill?"

"BLT," I said, holding my bag close to my body. "But you'll have to kill me for my bacon."

She jerked her head in Patsy's direction. "Hey, Swiss Miss! You got anything edible in that sack?"

"Sardines," Patsy said with a nod. Patsy still possessed the same round face she'd had since we were in first grade, with porcelain skin, enormous blue eyes, and genuine natural-blond hair, courtesy of her Scandinavian mama.

"That ain't nothin' to be braggin' about," Mary Bennett said.

"By the way," Patsy said. "Have you guys -- "

"How many times do I have to tell you? It's y'all." Mary Bennett stretched out the last word so it lasted several seconds on her tongue. She cupped her smallish breasts. "Do I look like a guy to you? What in the hell is going on up there in Montana? They think everyone is a guy?"

"My daddy's a guy and he's from Hot Coffee, Mississippi," said Patsy, in a huff. "My MAMA is from MINNESOTA."

"Same damn thing," Mary Bennett said.

"Would you just let the poor girl talk?" Gerald said.

"Chirp away," Mary Bennett said with a bored wave of her hand.

"I was wondering if you guys . . . I mean, y'all, have met that new girl, Tammy," Patsy said. "I was going to ask her to have lunch with us tomorrow."

Her "y'all" came out as "yuall," a mispronunciation Mary Bennett acknowledged with an aggravated eye roll.

"I talked to her for a minute," I said, brushing crumbs from my skirt. "Says she just moved here from Texas, and that she lives north of Yazoo Road, but she didn't seem the type."

Gerald rolled up his brown paper sack into a small, neat package and gently placed it in a nearby wire trash can. "Oh, she lives north of Yazoo Road, all right," he said, his lips pursed as if holding in a delicious piece of gossip. "I overheard Marcy talking about it in study hall. I sit right next to her, and get to eavesdrop on all her conversations."

That wasn't hard to believe. Marcy and her friends wouldn't pay any attention to a skinny Jewish boy like Gerald.

"It just so happens that Tammy lives with her mother, who is the new housekeeper for the Peterson family on Marcy's street," Gerald said, in a low, secretive voice. "She lives in the converted carriage house behind the main house."

Tammy was the daughter of a maid? There was no lower ranking in our school's social strata.

"Oh Lord," I said, biting my bottom lip. "She mentioned she was going to try and join the Key Club today. I tried to discourage her, but she insisted."

My news stunned us into silence, as we all imagined Tammy's dreadful fate.

"She was such a pretty girl," Gerald said solemnly, as if delivering her eulogy.

Mary Bennett fanned her face with a napkin and said, "Those monsters will eat her alive. Her ass is grass."

The next day I nearly fell out when I spotted Marcy and Tammy in the hall, walking arm in arm like sisters.

"Hey there, Jill," Tammy said. I noticed she was wearing the same skirt as yesterday, which is a fashion felony with Marcy's crowd. "I wanted to thank you again for opening my locker for me. You saved my life." She turned to Marcy. "Do you and Jill know each other?"

"Of course we do," Marcy said. Her smile was blinding, her hair gleamed platinum, and even the whites of her eyes seemed brighter than the average person's. "Jill and I go back a long time, don't we, hunny? We're like this." Marcy crossed her fingers together.

She sounded so sweetly sincere that I was momentarily caught off guard. But when I looked at her face, her blue eyes held a reptilian coldness that seemed to say, "Go ahead and contradict me, little missy. I dare you."

I felt my shoulders slumping, an automatic reaction to being in Marcy's presence.

"Hey, Marcy. Good to see ya," I mumbled.

"I better get to class," Marcy said. She reached out to squeeze Tammy's wrist. "See you at lunch?"

"I'll be there," Tammy said.

I winced at her familiarity with Marcy.

"Everyone is so friendly here," she said to me after Marcy left.

"It does appear that way," I said, not meeting Tammy's eyes.

"And you were wrong about the Key Club. They welcomed me with open arms. If you're interested I could put in a good word for you. There's supposed to be a reception at Marcy's house tomorrow night. Maybe you could come?"

"I have to wash my hair, but thanks."

"Too bad," Tammy said with a pout. "I bet it's going to be a blast."

"Now, let me get this straight, y'all only use the first few books of the Bible?" Mary Bennett said, propping her elbows on the Formica table and cocking her head quizzically at Gerald, who was sitting across from her.

"You're not supposed to talk about religion or money or politics in polite company," I said, sliding across the high-backed vinyl booth. Most days after school the four of us gathered at the lunch counter at Brent's Drugstore about three blocks from the school.

"Who says we're in polite company?" Mary Bennett said. She pointed to Patsy, who was sitting next to Gerald. "Look at Swiss Miss over there picking her teeth."

"Oh, sorry," Patsy said, dipping her blond head in embarrassment.

"Anyhoo," Mary Bennett said. "What do y'all do? Read the Bible and ignore the parts you don't like? Does the preacher say, y'all don't read ahead 'cause we don't believe in that mess coming up?"

"It's called the Torah, Mary Bennett," Gerald said patiently. "And it has only the first five books of the Bible. And Jews have rabbis, not preachers."

"You do realize that y'all are missing out on the best parts?" Mary Bennett said, wagging a finger at him. "The Christmas story, Sermon on the Mount, and getting saved."

"Jews don't get saved," Gerald said, bemusedly shaking his head. "We don't believe in an afterlife."

Mary Bennett's mouth dropped wide open. "How does your rabbi get y'all to do anything without threatening you with eternal damnation? I bet the collection plate is flat-out empty come Sunday morning."

"Friday night. That's when we have our services."

"Crazy," Mary Bennett said, twirling a finger beside her temple. "What kind of church was it your mama went to up there in Michigan, Swiss Miss?"

"Minnesota," Patsy corrected. "And Mama was Lutheran. They didn't have a Lutheran church in Hot Coffee and Daddy was brought up Baptist, but the only church within walking distance of their first house was Presbyterian, so apparently we were predestined to be the Frozen Chosen."

Mary Bennett's brow bunched. "Lutheran -- is that the one with snakes?"

A weary-looking waitress with a messy topknot of hair sidled up to us, pencil poised over a pad. "What'll y'all have?"

"A Big Orange for me," Patsy said, handing the waitress the plastic menu.

"We're out of orange," the waitress said.

"Oh," Patsy said in a disappointed voice. "What other kind of pop do you have?"

"Did you just say pot, missy?" the waitress said, raising an accusing eyebrow.

"Oh for pity sakes, just bring her a Co-Cola," Mary Bennett said. She pointed at Patsy and whispered to the waitress. "Her mama's a Yankee. 'Pop' is what they call Co-Cola up there in Milwaukee. God only knows why."

The rest of us gave our orders for homemade lemonade or milk shakes and burgers; then I told them about how Tammy had been invited to a Key Club reception at Marcy's house.

"What do you suppose is going on?" I said, directing my question to Gerald. If anyone knew the dirt, he would.

"Nothing good, that's for sure," Gerald said, shaking his head. "They were all gathered around Marcy's locker, whispering and giggling before study hall. I was only able to catch a snippet. Marcy said something like, 'Don't worry, I made sure Mother would be out of the house tomorrow night.'"

"I'll bet she's talking about the reception," I said. "And obviously, she doesn't want her mama to know about the horrible things they've got planned for Tammy."

"I don't know why we're all worked up about this Tammy person," Mary Bennett said. "Who is she to us, anyway?"

"I like her," Patsy said, her normally placid forehead rumpled. "It frosts my butt that those girls want to be mean to her."

Mary Bennett's nostrils quivered at the blatantly Yankee "frost my butt" expression. In Mississippi, one's hindquarters would get "chapped" -- it's rare we get a frost on the punkins, let alone our asses.

The waitress plunked our drinks down on the table.

"She is really nice," I said. "Our kind of people, if you know what I mean."

"Well, good gravy, if you're so wound up over her, just tell her not to go to that stupid reception," Mary Bennett said, throwing her hands out, palms up. "What could be simpler?"

"Yeah, Jill." Gerald shook his straw loose from its paper wrapper. "You're the closest to her, why don't you explain to her the social food chain around here?"

Three pairs of eyes looked at me expectantly.

"Me?" I said, pointing at my chest. "What if she doesn't listen to me?"

"Then get strong with the girl," Mary Bennett said, leaning forward. "Have a come-to-Jesus meeting with her. Tell her Marcy and the rest of them never hang out with the hired help unless they want someone to clean up their messes."

"I just hate to hurt her feelings," I said, a knot of dread forming in my throat.

"Just remember," Gerald said. "Whatever you say to her will feel like a mosquito bite compared to what Marcy and those other haints will do to her if she goes to that reception."

All of them were staring me down so hard I knew I couldn't refuse. The trouble was, I wasn't yet accustomed to shifting the direction of my own life, much less anybody else's. (This would, of course, change, and now I'm quite comfortable directing others' lives.)

"Okay," I said, with a sigh. "I'll talk to her before tomorrow night."

The next day I tried to catch Tammy, but she was like a new cult inductee constantly surrounded by its members. Finally, I saw her dart into the girls' restroom just before last period. I followed her and was hit in the face by a blue shelf of smoke. Three sophomore girls were passing around a Marlboro Red. Tammy was at the mirror, her mouth a round O as she applied pink lipstick.

"You hot-boxed the hell out of this thing," said a girl with hair the color of bright brass from an overdose of Summer Blonde as she pinched the burning cigarette between her fingers.

The bell rang and she tossed the butt into the sink, where it made a sssss sound. The smokers all scattered, and Tammy smacked her lips together and turned away from the mirror.

"Hey, Jill," she said. "Whatcha doing?"

I snuck a glance behind me to make sure none of the Key Club bitches were around and whispered, "I have to talk to you."

"I'm going to be late for P.E.," she said, pointing to her wristwatch.

"This is your first week here. You can pretend you got lost. Coach Ryan won't mark you tardy." I head-gestured to a corner of the restroom near a broken Kotex dispenser. "This is important."

"If you say so," Tammy said, a questioning look in her eye. She stood under a scrawl of graffiti that said "Mary Bennett is easy." The handwriting on the pale green cinder block looked suspiciously like Mary Bennett's.

"Look," I said nervously, pushing my glasses up on my nose. "You shouldn't go to that reception tonight."

"Why?" Tammy said, with mild curiosity.

"You shouldn't go is all," I said. "You gotta trust me on this."

She paused a moment, a look of disappointment in her eyes. "Marcy warned me you might say something like that. She said the two of you had a falling-out in fifth grade, and although she's apologized to you profusely, you've continued to hold a grudge."

"Tammy," I said, measuring my words carefully, "she's lying."

"She said you'd say that, too," Tammy said, a pained expression on her face.

Danged if that Marcy hadn't covered all the bases. I didn't think there was a thing I could say to stop Tammy from going to that reception.

"Does 'Hang on, Sloopy' mean nothing to you?" I said, bumping my hip on the sink as I awkwardly turned away from her. "You know -- how she lived on the very bad side of town and everybody, yeah, tried to put her down?" Willfully blank, she looked at me. I gave up. "Okay. Fine. Have a good time."

"I could speak to Marcy. She and I are getting to be good buddies," she said, taking a step toward me. "Maybe the two of you can patch things up?"

Her expression was so earnest I had to look away. I weakly shook my head and then hitched my purse higher on my shoulder. Just before I pushed open the door I heard her call out, "I hope one day all of us can be friends."

Copyright 2007 by SPQ, Inc.



Continues...


Excerpted from The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel by Jill Conner Browne Copyright © 2007 by Jill Conner Browne. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Read More Show Less

Introduction

The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel

By Jill Conner Browne

Questions for Discussion:

1. The novel begins with the question "Is a queen created or is she born that way?" (1) Do you agree that we must learn to "make our very own queen dust" (6), or do you think some people naturally sparkle more than others? Jill claims you can see "the gleam of a queen" (1) in baby pictures of Queen Elizabeth, Cher, and RuPaul. What other celebrities—male, female, or somewhere in between!—might have been born with a queenly glimmer in their eyes?

2. Jill narrates the novel in the first-person voice. How does this affect the way the story unfolds? Discuss what the novel might be like from the point of view of another one of the Queens. Could Mary Bennett, Gerald, Patsy, or Tammy capture the uproarious humor of Jill's narration?

3. Jill introduces the city of Jackson, Mississippi, by emphasizing the divide of Yazoo Road: "If you lived north of Yazoo, like Marcy Stevens did, you peed champagne and blew your nose in silk. If you lived south — as I did — you peed Dixie Beer and blew your nose in burlap" (9). What is the "personality" of Jackson? How is the town like another character in the book, or even another Queen? If this novel were set in your hometown, how would it be different?

4. Jill describes her thirteen-year-old self like this: "I was so skinny?that when I ran I looked like an eggbeater coming down the road. If I turned sideways and stuck out my tongue, I looked like a zipper" (6). Think back to your own early teenage years. How would you humorously describe what you looked like back then? Were you as awkwardasyoung Jill?

5. Jill's friends describe her as "a whiz at motivating people," "a born leader," and "a helluva cook" (44). So why does Jill think, "I must have been absent when God handed out talents" (45)? What do you think is behind her late-blooming career and unsatisfying love life? What has been holding her back?

6. The Sweet Potato Queens' four food groups are sweet, salty, fried, and au gratin! What are yours? Are they just as indulgent as the Queens'?

7. One of the themes of the novel is the importance of creating your own positive self-image. Take Tammy as an example. Discuss how her character evolves, from the Key Club incident in high school to realizing she's been "royalty in Jackson all along" (271). What mistakes does Tammy make, and how do they affect her self-image? What does it take for Tammy to accept herself as a real-life Sweet Potato Queen, instead of a fantasized "Lady Tammy" (218)?

8. Jill's writing career grows over the course of the novel, from joking about sending her articles to the Fish Wrapper Gazette (148), to her beloved column in The Diddy Wah Diddy, to realizing she should write a book about the Sweet Potato Queens. What helps Jill gain confidence in her writing? Do you think she successfully balances her career as a personal trainer with her love for writing?

9. How does Ross quickly win over Jill, who admits, "It was positively head-spinning how quickly my feelings for Ross had grown. I was like a sports car that had gone from zero to sixty in three dates" (183)? What are some of the warning signs that Ross is too good to be true? If you were in Jill's position, do you think you would fall for Ross's charms? Why or why not?

10. Compare the Tammys' 1968 homecoming float (on pages 38 to 42) to the Sweet Potato Queens' St. Paddy's Day Parade of 1989 (pages 271 to 278). What has changed on their float over the years, and what has remained the same?

11. What is Patsy's special talent, which earns her the nickname "Queen Poot" (274)? How does Patsy use her unique skill on Marcy Stevens? Does Marcy get what's coming to her?

12. What do you think of the novel's ending? Is this a happy ending for Jill, who has not yet found love? Discuss what Jill means by this statement: "Some day my king will come... . For the very first time, I thought I might be willing to let it happen" (278).

13. Which of the Sweet Potato Queens do you relate to the most, and why? Which Queen do you find the most comical, and which is the most practical?

14. The novel ends in 1989. Where do you see Jill, Tammy, Mary Bennett, Patsy, and Gerald in 2007, eighteen years later? Do you think the middle-aged Queens would still look just as fabulous in their St. Paddy's Day Parade prom gowns?

15. Name a scene in the book that made you laugh out loud. Did other members of your book club chuckle at the same moments?

16. If you've read any of Browne's other Sweet Potato Queens books, how does the Big-Ass Novel compare to her previous nonfiction titles? If this is your first time with the Sweet Potato Queens, are you planning to read the rest of the series?

Enhance Your Book Club:

1. If you haven't already, start your own O-fficial Chapter of the Sweet Potato Queens! There are more than five thousand chapters registered nationwide. Come up with a name and a motto, and nominate a member (or yourself) as Boss Queen. To get inspired, registered, and fully accessorized, visit the Sweet Potato Queens website: www.sweetpotatoqueens.com.

2. Have members of your book club make some of the recipes in The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel. Share the food at your book club meeting. You might want to call your meeting to order by announcing, "COME AND GIT IT! (That's y'allbonics for bon appétit.)" (280)

3. Do a little research on Jackson, Mississippi. Have each member of your book club bring in one fun fact about the town, or a map or picture of a Jackson landmark. Maybe your group will want to take a field trip next March, for Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade!

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel

By Jill Conner Browne

Questions for Discussion:

1. The novel begins with the question "Is a queen created or is she born that way?" (1) Do you agree that we must learn to "make our very own queen dust" (6), or do you think some people naturally sparkle more than others? Jill claims you can see "the gleam of a queen" (1) in baby pictures of Queen Elizabeth, Cher, and RuPaul. What other celebrities—male, female, or somewhere in between!—might have been born with a queenly glimmer in their eyes?

2. Jill narrates the novel in the first-person voice. How does this affect the way the story unfolds? Discuss what the novel might be like from the point of view of another one of the Queens. Could Mary Bennett, Gerald, Patsy, or Tammy capture the uproarious humor of Jill's narration?

3. Jill introduces the city of Jackson, Mississippi, by emphasizing the divide of Yazoo Road: "If you lived north of Yazoo, like Marcy Stevens did, you peed champagne and blew your nose in silk. If you lived south — as I did — you peed Dixie Beer and blew your nose in burlap" (9). What is the "personality" of Jackson? How is the town like another character in the book, or even another Queen? If this novel were set in your hometown, how would it be different?

4. Jill describes her thirteen-year-old self like this: "I was so skinny'that when I ran I looked like an eggbeater coming down the road. If I turned sideways and stuck out my tongue, I looked like a zipper" (6). Think back to your own early teenage years. How would you humorously describe what you looked like back then? Were you as awkward asyoung Jill?

5. Jill's friends describe her as "a whiz at motivating people," "a born leader," and "a helluva cook" (44). So why does Jill think, "I must have been absent when God handed out talents" (45)? What do you think is behind her late-blooming career and unsatisfying love life? What has been holding her back?

6. The Sweet Potato Queens' four food groups are sweet, salty, fried, and au gratin! What are yours? Are they just as indulgent as the Queens'?

7. One of the themes of the novel is the importance of creating your own positive self-image. Take Tammy as an example. Discuss how her character evolves, from the Key Club incident in high school to realizing she's been "royalty in Jackson all along" (271). What mistakes does Tammy make, and how do they affect her self-image? What does it take for Tammy to accept herself as a real-life Sweet Potato Queen, instead of a fantasized "Lady Tammy" (218)?

8. Jill's writing career grows over the course of the novel, from joking about sending her articles to the Fish Wrapper Gazette (148), to her beloved column in The Diddy Wah Diddy, to realizing she should write a book about the Sweet Potato Queens. What helps Jill gain confidence in her writing? Do you think she successfully balances her career as a personal trainer with her love for writing?

9. How does Ross quickly win over Jill, who admits, "It was positively head-spinning how quickly my feelings for Ross had grown. I was like a sports car that had gone from zero to sixty in three dates" (183)? What are some of the warning signs that Ross is too good to be true? If you were in Jill's position, do you think you would fall for Ross's charms? Why or why not?

10. Compare the Tammys' 1968 homecoming float (on pages 38 to 42) to the Sweet Potato Queens' St. Paddy's Day Parade of 1989 (pages 271 to 278). What has changed on their float over the years, and what has remained the same?

11. What is Patsy's special talent, which earns her the nickname "Queen Poot" (274)? How does Patsy use her unique skill on Marcy Stevens? Does Marcy get what's coming to her?

12. What do you think of the novel's ending? Is this a happy ending for Jill, who has not yet found love? Discuss what Jill means by this statement: "Some day my king will come... . For the very first time, I thought I might be willing to let it happen" (278).

13. Which of the Sweet Potato Queens do you relate to the most, and why? Which Queen do you find the most comical, and which is the most practical?

14. The novel ends in 1989. Where do you see Jill, Tammy, Mary Bennett, Patsy, and Gerald in 2007, eighteen years later? Do you think the middle-aged Queens would still look just as fabulous in their St. Paddy's Day Parade prom gowns?

15. Name a scene in the book that made you laugh out loud. Did other members of your book club chuckle at the same moments?

16. If you've read any of Browne's other Sweet Potato Queens books, how does the Big-Ass Novel compare to her previous nonfiction titles? If this is your first time with the Sweet Potato Queens, are you planning to read the rest of the series?

Enhance Your Book Club:

1. If you haven't already, start your own O-fficial Chapter of the Sweet Potato Queens! There are more than five thousand chapters registered nationwide. Come up with a name and a motto, and nominate a member (or yourself) as Boss Queen. To get inspired, registered, and fully accessorized, visit the Sweet Potato Queens website: sweetpotatoqueens.com.

2. Have members of your book club make some of the recipes in The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel. Share the food at your book club meeting. You might want to call your meeting to order by announcing, "COME AND GIT IT! (That's y'allbonics for bon appétit.)" (280)

3. Do a little research on Jackson, Mississippi. Have each member of your book club bring in one fun fact about the town, or a map or picture of a Jackson landmark. Maybe your group will want to take a field trip next March, for Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade!

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 32 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2008

    Loved it, loved it, loved it!

    This is the first Sweet Potato Queens' book I've read. Actually, I listened to it in my car while driving around Southern California for my job. It made me laugh non-stop and I found myself taking longer breaks and sitting in my car just to keep listening. It made me wish I'd grown up in the south! I love the expressions and the reader's accent. Great fun!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2009

    Light reading

    I preferred her original books. They had an light and easy humor whereas this was a rehash of reality and did not surpass it. But if one was not familiar with all the earlier books it would be good light reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2007

    A reviewer

    The first of the Sweet Potato books that I've read and find it to be a perfect beach read! I thoroughly enjoyed the light-hearted story line and approach taken by the author. A book I thoroughly enjoyed and will definitely read others in the collection!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    SPQ Big Ass Novel - Big on Funny

    Jill Browne keeps you in stitches and waiting for the next comical situation to arrise, it's never long. Southern style humor with food you enjoy without the calories. She is the girl friend we all need in our lives. She's been through it and she'll stand next to you with a Margarita, to help you through it. Her books always leave you ready for the next one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2008

    Extremely slow

    I've read all of the Queens books which were very entertaining & funny, but not this one. Very boring. I could hardly read it thru without falling asleep.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    This was the first of the Sweet Potato Collection I have read and it was very entertaining. The book moved along quickly and I can see where you would want some more information on the characters, but over-all was a great quick read! Very funny because you can easily see the situations occuring and the characters reactions are price-less!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2007

    Don't waste your money.

    I really looked forward to this first fictional effort, but I was very disappointed. No plot, but just a string of worn-out phrases from her earlier books. The characters were one-dimentional, and the story line, such as it was, seemed forced. Very amateurish first effort into fiction writing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2007

    Just not as funny as it could have been.

    I was truly disappointed by this novel. I have read all of her nonfiction offerings, and felt the last two of that series were lacking in originality and the original feel of the first two books. The book was formulaic, and many parts of it were simply the same stories of the nonfiction books with added embellishments. I sincerely hope the next offering takes us back to the sweetness, sass and original exuberant laughter of her first nonfiction books.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2007

    Could not quit reading

    This book brought me back to my high school days and my friends. I am recently widowed and I needed this funny and light book. Easy to read and when I finished reading it I was wishing for more pages!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    good talre

    In 1968 Jackson, Mississippi, the Fab Five (Jill, Mary, Patsy, Tammy and Gerald) became tight friends because of their belief that they are magnificent though the existing high school clubs and other teen associations rejected each of them. The outsiders dubbed themselves the Sweet Potato Queens with their vision to enjoy life to the fullest for 'If it ain't fun, we ain't doing it.'---------- After graduation they remained friends though each went their separate way. Mary went Hollywood Gerald comes out of the closet in San Francisco Tammy becomes a Jackson TV weather reporter Patsy becomes a mom in Atlanta, while Jill becomes a personal trainer and columnist. Each has met life head on, but now twenty plus years later following marriage, death, and relationship blunders, they meet in London to save Tammy from what her four bosom buddies think is a tragic mistake.------------ Though more vignette than novel, this is a fine fictionalization of Jill Connor Browne's The Sweet Potato Queens. The five protagonists are a likable quintet as they help each other stay balanced over the years. Fans of the Karen Gillespie¿s Bottom Dollar Girls, the Mossy Creek sagas or the Sweet Potato Queens will enjoy this humorous slice of life.-------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2013

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    Posted November 16, 2009

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    Posted July 19, 2011

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    Posted June 26, 2011

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    Posted March 23, 2009

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    Posted October 18, 2010

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    Posted November 7, 2010

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    Posted December 2, 2008

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    Posted January 2, 2011

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