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)
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)|
About the Author
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.
Table of Contents
Author's Note ix
1 A New Victim 1
2 Covert 11
3 Page One 25
4 Obtained by Deception 45
5 Friend 63
6 A Woman in Chicago 79
7 Concerned Neighbors 101
8 The Fashionably Dressed Mrs. Taylor 123
9 She Couldn't Stop 141
10 She Knows About the Money 159
11 Everything Is Fictitious 177
12 Bottom Rats 195
13 The Two Mrs. Harbaughs 209
14 I'll Sue the Hell out of Them 227
15 A Helpless Child 243
16 Clever, Conniving, Callous 267
17 Beneficiary 287
18 Deficits of Memory 311
Timeline of Undo Taylor's Life 341
What People are Saying About This
"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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Charlatan, con-artist, liar, thief, prostitute, kidnapper, bigamist, probable murdererer. Using multiple aliases, Martha Louise White was perhaps the most notorious government fraudster in the history of the country. She was given the handle, “Welfare Queen,” and became widely known throughout the country and was a favorite subject of Ronald Reagan as he campaigned for President. What an incredible true story. You’ll have to read it to believe it. Very well written and researched by Josh Levin; you’ll read about her whole life, learn about the burglary detective who put the pieces together, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who first wrote about her in the Chicago Tribune, and some of the history of the welfare system. For me it was kind of a sad story in more ways than one. I think the author did an exceptional job treating the subject objectively and with sensitivity. I found the whole story fascinating and it made me think of the nature versus nurture debate. Was she born bad or was she a product of the environment she grew up in? If you like true crime stories, then you’ll want to read this amazing book.