The 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 her color. 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.

The Queen Details

TitleThe Queen
Author
ReleaseMay 21st, 2019
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316513302
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Crime, True Crime, History, Biography, Politics, Biography Memoir

The Queen Review

  • Jill Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    In 1975, during his first run for the Republican Presidential nomination, Ronald Reagan (from his team of advisors) came up with the term "Welfare Queen". These words denoted a black woman who has connived and cheated the United States' program of welfare, aid-to-dependent-children, and other social programs that were for the "deserving poor", The "Queen" was driving around in her Cadillac, stopping at the supermarket where she'll use her food stamps to buy caviar and expensive cuts of steak, wa In 1975, during his first run for the Republican Presidential nomination, Ronald Reagan (from his team of advisors) came up with the term "Welfare Queen". These words denoted a black woman who has connived and cheated the United States' program of welfare, aid-to-dependent-children, and other social programs that were for the "deserving poor", The "Queen" was driving around in her Cadillac, stopping at the supermarket where she'll use her food stamps to buy caviar and expensive cuts of steak, washing it all down with Dom Perignon. And, she was, of course, wearing her full length mink coat. This "Welfare Queen" actually had a name. She was "Linda Taylor", and she lived on the South Side of Chicago.But, who was "Linda Taylor"? Journalist Josh Levin spent six years tracking down "Linda Taylor", with all her aliases and lies, and has written a book, "The Queen", with his findings. His book is an exhaustive look at "Taylor" - she was known to have about 25 aliases - and the methods she used to break the system of social programs. I bet that Levin needed an spreadsheet to keep up with the aliases Taylor used in her 50 years of deception. This deception also included fake children, stolen children, bigamy, possible murders, one possible kidnapping, and just all-around wickedness. He also looks at the society in which she was raised and how she was treated by her own birth relatives. Linda Taylor was not a black woman; it was thought that her mother was white and had had an affair with a black man. When Taylor was born in the mid-1920's, she really didn't have much more than a small idea of her identity. She was light skin and that allowed her to adopt almost any racial identity she wanted. Sometimes she claimed to be white, sometimes black, and sometimes Hispanic. She even had a Jewish husband or name somewhere along the line; "Steinberg" pops up in her list of aliases.Josh Levin's book is a long read. It is 350 pages of details of names and places and alternate identities. Levin thoughtfully puts in a timeline of Linda Taylor's life in the back, and I sure hope the release copies will include pictures, because I'd just love to see some of the people he writes about. I enjoyed the book because it is one of my favorite type of book - a work of non-fiction written like a work of fiction. Be sure to have access to Wikipedia when you're reading the book.
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  • Pamela
    January 1, 1970
    A fascinating introduction into the construction of the "welfare queen" myth, and the almost desperate need for some Americans to believe in her existence in order to justify cutting aid to the poor. In addition to providing that social history, Levin investigates Linda Taylor's real life, the life obscured by the myth, which was far darker, corrupt, and dangerous than Reagan could have believed. It's telling that Taylor's real victims—vulnerable women, innocent children—have been all but forgot A fascinating introduction into the construction of the "welfare queen" myth, and the almost desperate need for some Americans to believe in her existence in order to justify cutting aid to the poor. In addition to providing that social history, Levin investigates Linda Taylor's real life, the life obscured by the myth, which was far darker, corrupt, and dangerous than Reagan could have believed. It's telling that Taylor's real victims—vulnerable women, innocent children—have been all but forgotten, whereas her supposed victims—kind American taxpayers!—were never all that threatened.
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  • James Carmichael
    January 1, 1970
    I received a galley copy of this book because I know the author. It's as good as you've (hopefully) heard. You've perhaps also heard the basics: the story Levin tells is about Linda Taylor, the woman on whom the political trope of the "welfare queen" was based.What I so enjoyed was how deftly the book tells, essentially, two parallel stories: the political one, which is about the cynical use of a racist trope to further the electoral chances and domestic political agenda of Ronald Reagan and the I received a galley copy of this book because I know the author. It's as good as you've (hopefully) heard. You've perhaps also heard the basics: the story Levin tells is about Linda Taylor, the woman on whom the political trope of the "welfare queen" was based.What I so enjoyed was how deftly the book tells, essentially, two parallel stories: the political one, which is about the cynical use of a racist trope to further the electoral chances and domestic political agenda of Ronald Reagan and the Reagan-era GOP -- this story has all the carelessness about factuality and dog-whistling and dubious claims one might expect of a mainstream American politician at this point (or that point. whatever. you get it).And the second story, which is the true crime story of what Linda Taylor actually was and did which is both sad and totally bonkers. It's hard to talk about this book without a phrase like "welfare fraud turned out to be the least of her crimes": not only is that definitely true, but the nature, extent, and...existential depth of her criminal nature is breathtaking (in a bad way). With crisp prose that's even occasionally funny, Levin unearths Taylor's lifelong string of lies and of victims -- people she took advantage of with theft, identity fraud, and perhaps much much worse...by all accounts apparently throughout her whole life.The book also delicately threads a tough needle: it presents the ways in which Taylor herself was victimized--most specifically by racial and gender bias, including with her own family--without ever letting its acknowledgment of these facts mitigate the toll her crimes took on her victims or the portrait of her as a dangerous sociopath that ultimately emerges. This makes the book a bit bigger than either of its two--already big--stories. It's a sad book; it's an exciting book, and an 'easy' read in a good sense in that it zips along. But it's sad because it's about lying and the low place of truth in our lives; it's about the awful costs that bias and entrenched inequalities have exacted on people in this country since forever; it's about victimization in our society. It's an exciting, strange read of a story that feels like an 'outlier' narrative (and indeed, is a pretty wild narrative) but that--for me--was anchored in a melancholy reflection on all the ways we can be bad.I can't recommend the thing highly enough.
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  • Betty
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come closer to publication date.
  • Kevin Maney
    January 1, 1970
    I cannot recommend this book highly enough. On a basic level, this is an absolute page turner. The author has clearly put in years of hard work trying to piece together a life of someone with no desire to be known. Linda Taylor will be familiar to any reader as the inspiration for Ronald Reagan's "Welfare Queen," hence the title, but the author has uncovered a story that is 10x more incredible than you could imagine. It defies summary in this space, so I'll just emphasize that once you pick it u I cannot recommend this book highly enough. On a basic level, this is an absolute page turner. The author has clearly put in years of hard work trying to piece together a life of someone with no desire to be known. Linda Taylor will be familiar to any reader as the inspiration for Ronald Reagan's "Welfare Queen," hence the title, but the author has uncovered a story that is 10x more incredible than you could imagine. It defies summary in this space, so I'll just emphasize that once you pick it up you will not be able to put it down.What makes this book particularly fantastic other than the obviously entertaining story is that Mr. Levin takes particular care to frame the story in the context of what it means for society. The "welfare queen" was not only a cheap example to rile up voters, it became an incredibly harmful stereotype that stuck to poor black women. When you read this book you cannot help but relate it to the current political climate and how that developed over years. Buy this book, if it isn't in the works already, you can bet this story will be made into a movie, it's that compelling!
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  • Val
    January 1, 1970
    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This book tells the story of probably the most vile, despicable person I have ever heard of. She was far more than a simple welfare cheat, she was a self-aggrandizing liar who would, and did, stop at absolutely nothing to gain what she felt she deserved. Josh Levin has done a heroic job of research to write a mind-boggling story that staggers the imagination.
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  • Karen Parisot
    January 1, 1970
    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; y 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.
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  • Janet Womack
    January 1, 1970
    I received The Queen as a Goodreads giveaway. The true story of Linda Taylor, behind the "welfare queen" label, is the story of a truly evil woman. While politicians were using her welfare fraud to bolster a stereotype she was perpetrating far more serious crimes. She was a con artist, a kidnapper, and most likely a murderer. Her story falls into the category of truth being stranger than fiction. Josh Levin did an amazing amount of research to present the real life of this wicked woman. The only I received The Queen as a Goodreads giveaway. The true story of Linda Taylor, behind the "welfare queen" label, is the story of a truly evil woman. While politicians were using her welfare fraud to bolster a stereotype she was perpetrating far more serious crimes. She was a con artist, a kidnapper, and most likely a murderer. Her story falls into the category of truth being stranger than fiction. Josh Levin did an amazing amount of research to present the real life of this wicked woman. The only negative is the insertion of some political opinions as facts. Overall this is an amazing story.
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  • Kristy Q
    January 1, 1970
    Wow, this was an eye opener. Levin digs deep into the history of Linda Taylor (or whatever alias she might’ve been known by) who became the basis for the stereotype of the “welfare queen”. She became a symbol of the large number of people many supposed were taking ridiculous advantage of the welfare system, when in fact she was a grifter, criminal, and possibly a murderer. This anomalous criminal gave a face to the fears of the working class and upper class who thought they and their tax money w Wow, this was an eye opener. Levin digs deep into the history of Linda Taylor (or whatever alias she might’ve been known by) who became the basis for the stereotype of the “welfare queen”. She became a symbol of the large number of people many supposed were taking ridiculous advantage of the welfare system, when in fact she was a grifter, criminal, and possibly a murderer. This anomalous criminal gave a face to the fears of the working class and upper class who thought they and their tax money were being taken advantage of. The book really lays out both Taylor’s bizarre life and the way that fear and racism came to make her a lasting, false stand-in for the people in hard times who needed help to survive. Would give it 5 stars if I hadn’t had such a hard time following the timeline sometimes.
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  • Perry
    January 1, 1970
    This book takes a footnote of campaigning history and develops a picture of an unrepentant welfare cheat who seemed unable to live any other way. The depth of research is very impressive and the writing fluid.
  • gnarlyhiker
    January 1, 1970
    an interesting subject and thoroughly researched, BUT gets bogged down in the minutiae, which lead to repeating facts and incidents numerous times. 2.5good luck
  • Justin
    January 1, 1970
    In the 70s Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan began telling a story about a welfare queen out of Chicago who drove Cadillacs and scammed the system. The story he told was true, her name was Linda Taylor who could look white, African American, or Hispanic with a change of a wig.The issue was Reagan kept enhancing this story and began painting a whole race (using dog whistles) as welfare recipients who were lazy and scamming the system.This great book shares two stories- Linda Taylor we had seve In the 70s Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan began telling a story about a welfare queen out of Chicago who drove Cadillacs and scammed the system. The story he told was true, her name was Linda Taylor who could look white, African American, or Hispanic with a change of a wig.The issue was Reagan kept enhancing this story and began painting a whole race (using dog whistles) as welfare recipients who were lazy and scamming the system.This great book shares two stories- Linda Taylor we had several aliases and did indeed scam a system even to the point of murder.The other story is Reagan’s story as he moved from governor to President by criticizing the welfare system while using and popularizing the idea of the welfare queen to encourage systemic racism.I really loved this as Linda’s story is fascinating, but it was the first real negative picture of the Reagan Presidency in a long time. Some how he has become a sainted President, but he had some whammies.
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  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    If youre looking for books that will help explain how we got to the current political climate we reside in, you would do well to pick up Josh Levin's The Queen. At it's core it is the biography of Constance Loyd/Linda Taylor whom Ronald Reagan touted as the Welfare Queen. This book is so much more. It's a commentary on the political and social climate of that time and it plots the course for readers to where we are today. Though welfare fraud is what brought Constance to the American stage, her If youre looking for books that will help explain how we got to the current political climate we reside in, you would do well to pick up Josh Levin's The Queen. At it's core it is the biography of Constance Loyd/Linda Taylor whom Ronald Reagan touted as the Welfare Queen. This book is so much more. It's a commentary on the political and social climate of that time and it plots the course for readers to where we are today. Though welfare fraud is what brought Constance to the American stage, her crimes are myriad and complex, as was her life. Josh Levin brought her to life for me, and I found her riveting and fascinating. I wanted to talk about what I'd read, and I think The Queen would make an excellent book discussion selection. The Queen reads like a novel. I appreciated the obvious extensive research. I commend Josh Levin. well done!I received my copy through NetGalley under no obligation.
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