Linda Taylor was one of the most infamous figures of the 20th century. She's now a forgotten woman, having faded from public view four decades ago. But while the real Taylor vanished from our collective memory, her nickname, the "welfare queen" persisted. In THE QUEEN: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth, Slate national editor, Josh Levin, unveils the full story of the misunderstood, demonized, and mythologized woman behind a vicious and enduring American stereotype.
"Levin first wrote about Taylor in a long article for Slate in 2013. In “The Queen,” he tracks her from her birth in 1926 in the wonderfully named Golddust, Tenn., to arrests in Seattle and Oakland, a possible murder in Chicago in 1975 and a nursing home in Tampa. And there’s much, much more.
Part of the fun of Levin’s book is burrowing inside his obsessive quest. He tracks down vintage court transcripts, old property deeds, marriage licenses, handwriting tests, yellowed police records, ex-husbands of former roommates. What emerges is a quite unsettling picture of a woman who in Levin’s telling seems to have no conscience and no morals, no loyalty to her own children or to any of her many, many husbands. Her crimes are so sprawling and confusing that at times she seems almost like a Keyser Söze master villain. There are hints of buying and selling children on the black market. There’s a sickly woman who winds up dead shortly after Taylor befriends her."
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