Review: Queen Sugar

Queen Sugar Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You will find mixed reviews on Natalie Baszile’s Queen Sugar wherever you look. Some readers think it’s an amazing piece of contemporary literature while others think it’s overwritten and overdramatized. I fall in the middle. I see this as a work that had the potential to be a bestseller but fell short in many ways, which explains why, although it didn’t make it to the bestseller list, it has won some awards and mentions on booklists. Baszile is extremely open on the topic of racism and sexism in Queen Sugar, but I strongly feel she could’ve done much more positive things with it. While she did show the specific insecurities and uncertainties of an African-American woman in the farming industry, which is mostly run by white males – this was done in a surprisingly honest way that struck me as important – she also overdid some of the reactions the main character had. This occurred to the point that I found myself very irritated with the character because there’s no way anyone could misinterpret things the way she did. I thought the relationships in this book were more honest than in most, and I appreciated that a lot. The tensions and disagreements were very true-to-life in a way I rarely see, with disagreements and tensions that made sense and fit both the characters and the family situations. I did find some corniness and cliches in some characters, and especially in one or two situations. I can’t describe that much because I’d give two important scenes away, but a couple of major spots made me say, “Oh please!” out loud, which obviously is not a good sign. All in all, though, the psychology in it was strong, especially in the main character’s brother, who has some major issues and a self-fulfilling prophecy that goes back to childhood. Well done on that. At many times, Baszile is too heavy handed. For example, there’s a lovemaking scene in which she uses beautiful metaphors of nature to describe it, but then she spells out exactly what the metaphor meant, even though it was extraordinarily clear to begin with. This ruined the metaphor – why bother with it if you’re going to explain every detail anyway? – and drew out the scene in an unromantic way, exactly the opposite of her intention. As a lover of literature and symbolism, that bothered me. A lot. The voice talent, Miriam Hyman, was really excellent. I could clearly tell the difference between characters, plus she enunciates beautifully. She’s very intense, too, which makes me think she’d be great reading a psychological thriller book. I’d love to hear another performance of hers.

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