The Memory Keeper

Outside, the storm rumbled on, leaving the rain-slicked car park almost empty. Chris headed for his usual table by the window, wet hair dripping onto his tray. He had picked the wrong day to cycle. With half an hour until his evening shift started, he set down his coffee and toasted teacake and shouldered off his backpack, leaving a puddle on the floor. He’d been turning up for work early these past few months, and the rest of his day had become a prelude to sitting in the supermarket café, in the hope Gemma was working. Chris sat facing the counter, raised his mug at her and smiled. The waitress nodded back from her cash register, but she seemed tired – not her usual sparky self at all. She was busy serving the only other customer, so he dragged his eyes away and remembered to check the old shoebox in his bag.

At least by wrapping it in a plastic carrier before leaving his mum’s nursing home, he’d ensured the whole thing wasn’t reduced to mush. The box was still dry, but the ragged corners were held together by peeling tape. Chris lifted the lid on his mother’s memories to examine the contents. He considered lovestruck newlyweds on the brink of parenthood, and family snapshots with Chris on his father’s sandy shoulders. It pleased him how many remnants of his mother’s past they’d managed to label with names and years today.

Chris yawned and ruffled his hair. He needed this coffee tonight. Packing up someone else’s life was exhausting, and he welcomed the caffeine as he took his first sip. He wondered whether he could release the top button of his trousers discreetly to be comfortable, without looking creepy. His waistband had been digging into his skin lately, leaving a red stripe along his belly like a scar. He should start running or something. There were four individual butters with peel-off lids on his plate. Two were low-fat margarine, two were the good stuff. Best just make it margarine. Back when he’d started here, he could chase after a shoplifter, fast as a whippet. But now? He shook his head. This whole security guard thing was only ever meant to be temporary after his redundancy, but everyone here was nice, and time kept slipping away. He’d be thirty-four soon.

Gemma laughed at something with her customer. How someone could look so lovely wearing a hair net and uniform was beyond him. It was as if her cheeks had been sprinkled with cinnamon and everyone knew Chris had a weakness for those freckles. He wondered sometimes if she’d known it too, back when they were at school. Lately he’d been thinking of the day they all went rollerblading through Finsbury Park as teenagers. Gemma cried with laughter each time she helped him up from the ground. Of course, she’d preferred Tom Alexander, all the girls did, and she’d dated that kid who went on to play professional tennis for a while too. Then she moved away and returned to London years later, married to a shifty looking guy Chris had heard sleazy rumours about.

He looked down at a photo of his parents, their cheeks pressed together, wearing matching red Santa hats. It must have been taken a year before his dad died. They’d deserved more time together. Chris tried to imagine growing older with his last girlfriend, but the only image he could muster was of two bored people sat at opposite ends of the sofa, with nothing left to say to each other. It should never have lasted as long as it did.

When he looked up, Gemma was marching toward him, a dish cloth balled in her fist. She stopped at the next table, wiping it down aggressively before tucking in a red chair. Something flickered in his stomach, like fish darting around.

She straightened up, hand on hip. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you actually, Chris.”

“You have?”

“About your last shift?”

“Oh yeah?”

She rolled her hand, eyebrows raised, as if he’d forgotten his cue. “Eventful, was it?” 

Okay, there was definitely an undercurrent here. Potential for choppy waters. Where was she going with this?

He nodded slowly. “There was a lady in the carpark. I lent her my phone when she locked her keys and handbag in the boot of the car.”

Gemma tapped her foot, shaking her head. Something else, then.

He rubbed the back of his neck. There was that boy he’d stopped. Darryl? Chris had noticed him lurking around, picking up a bottle of vodka, checking over his shoulder. It looked like he’d stashed it in his jacket, but the boy must have thought better of it, concealing packets of Maltesers up his sleeves instead.

“You mean that kid I had to give a scare out the back?”

“Bingo! He’s got it!” Gemma raised her hands as if to an audience, but there was only a blue-suited man engrossed in a newspaper.

“I thought he’d stolen some booze, but when I realised –”

“Booze? That was my nephew! Darren’s sixteen; he’s not going to steal alcohol. At least not from the place his auntie works, is he?”

“Your nephew?” He chuckled, remembering the cheek he’d received. That soon stopped when Chris explained to him the decision he faced. Inform the police, leaving the kid with a big blot on his record, or Darren could agree to show a little more respect and Chris would let him walk away, as long as he never showed his face in here again.

“Yes.” Her foot was still tapping impatiently, like he was an imbecile. “A security guard stopped him and acted like a dickhead, apparently. Accused him of stealing alcohol, when it wasn’t true.” Her eyes flashed, colour rising around her collarbone. “Did you threaten him with a criminal record, even though he didn’t take anything?”

This was hard to believe. She was tearing a strip out of him for doing his job. The whole thing had been textbook: let the kid go with a warning but frighten him enough that he wouldn’t get into future trouble.

“Hey, I’m the good guy here! I let him off, even though he had half our confectionery delivery hidden up his sleeve. You should be thanking me.”

Her eyes widened fiercely so he tingled to the very roots of his hair. Heaping Chris with praise and gratitude was clearly not at the forefront of her mind, but when her mouth opened the words seemed to dissolve on her tongue. They stared at one another.

“I’m sorry. It’s just been a really tough month, with this and that.” She rubbed her temples for a moment, covering her face. “It’s been a lot, you know?”

He nodded, pulled out a chair.

Gemma glanced at the empty counter and sank down beside him. “Darren’s a good kid really. But my sister’s been struggling with him at home and I just don’t want him going off the rails.” She landed the softest punch on Chris’ arm. “I’m guessing you were a sweetheart dealing with him.”

He felt the heat rush to his cheeks as he watched a curl escape from her hair net. Gemma picked out a photo from the box and he stared at an indentation where her wedding ring should be. He coughed and quickly looked out the window. It was dark out now. The pelting rain had eased so all that remained of the storm was fine drizzle and shiny puddles, mirroring the headlights of cars crawling past.

Chris turned to face her fully. “Do you feel like talking about it?”

Tell me it’s true. Tell me you finally threw that Lothario out and he’s never coming back.

She shrugged and looked directly at him for a moment, spreading warmth through his chest like brandy.

“I’d rather talk about this.” She pinched her chin, examining the photo more closely. “What are you doing with a picture of a ridiculously handsome man in Speedos?!”

“That’s my dad.”

Her eyes twinkled, appraising Chris as he took another bite of teacake. “Hmm.”

“I know, the resemblance is uncanny, hey?” He smiled. His father must have been about Chris’ age now in that photo. “I’m going to put all these in albums. Thought it might be nice for Mum.”

“Is she getting more settled?”

He wrinkled his nose. “Depends. She was cheery today, chattering on, till she got confused. Other days she’s kind of vacant.”

Whenever he could, Chris dropped into his mother’s old flat, going through crowded cupboards and drawers where moths had died in grimy corners. This morning he’d sorted kitchen utensils for the charity shop and asked her neighbours if they’d like any of the twenty cake tins she’d squirreled away, before taking stacks of photographs over to the nursing home.

“You wouldn’t believe what people keep. And she has all these keys! I can’t throw any away in case they’re important.”

Gemma placed her hand over his for a moment, squeezing gently. “It must get overwhelming.”

Chris caught his breath and tried to look nonchalant when he shrugged. “We’ve whittled bags of random photos down to this lot.” He tapped the box with his knuckles and when she lifted her hand away, he still felt the ghost of her touch. “To be honest, it was kind of fun, getting all nostalgic – until Mum got all tangled up again and forgot who most of the family were halfway through. I’m not just talking about some distant, third cousin once-removed types either.” His laugh rang a little hollow as he held a polaroid out and turned it over.

She peered at his writing on the back, squinting. “Mick (your husband) with Chris (your son), Southend, 1986.” She shook her head and exhaled. “It’s really lovely how you take care of her.”

“By shoving her in a home? She’s the youngest one in there, you know.”

Gemma stood up and unpinned her name badge, reattaching it a little straighter as she spoke. “I want you to come over on Tuesday night. I know you’ll think it sounds lame, but I have a few friends over for scrapbooking every month. While we’re at it, we have a few drinks.”

Scrapbooking? It didn’t sound like his thing and clearly his expression betrayed him.

“Don’t pull a face!” She grabbed her dish cloth and gestured at the photos. “It’s ideal for all this. You can make something special for your mum. Help her remember things. Plus…” She tapped her chest and grinned. “You get to drink wine with a fun bunch of women. So, no excuses, okay?”

Chris Googled scrapbooking when he got home. It wasn’t something he’d be broadcasting around at work, but Gemma had entered her address into his phone and told him to arrive at eight with a bottle of red. Of course, he’d go. He wasn’t an idiot.

By Tuesday night, he didn’t want to seem too eager, so he arrived ten minutes late with cabernet sauvignon and a stronger shoebox. Laughter rang out through the window. Chris cleared his throat and composed himself in the small front garden, as wet feathery ferns brushed his clothes in the wind. When he knocked, the door swung open and a tall, skinny boy with too much hair gel stood bathed in light. The smile slipped from Chris’ face.

“Er, hello Darren.”

The kid sighed dramatically, like he was enacting a caricature of a stroppy teenager. “I thought she was effing joking!” He nodded and turned on his heel, shouting, “That security guard’s here!”

Chris watched him take the stairs two at a time, before disappearing. Women’s voices rose and fell in undulating waves, followed by more peals of laughter. Chris waited, hesitated, and went inside, closing the door behind him. He took a deep breath. The wall was crowded with coats, so he folded his own and tucked it on a shoe rack just as Gemma appeared in the hall holding a corkscrew.

“You came! Come in, come in.”

She had her hair twisted up somehow, like an old film star, and red lipstick on that she never wore to work. Chris tried not to stare.

“Thanks.” He quickly ruffled his hair when she turned around but regretted it instantly as he caught sight of his reflection in a mirror.

“Don’t mind my nephew. Did I say he’s staying with me now? Just for a month or two.” A light, fresh scent trailed behind her.

“That’s nice. I didn’t realise.”

She shrugged, looking over her shoulder. “I kind of like the company right now, actually. Come and meet everyone.”

He managed to remember three names: Annabel, a brunette he recognised from sixth form, Keisha and Liz. Questions were fired and talk was fast, splintering in different directions as a tribal drumbeat and vocals pulsed over a speaker. She liked Florence and the Machine.

Gemma handed him a big thick book like a ring binder and a glass of wine. “Twelve by twelve,” she grinned. “Because you have a lot to include. Help yourself to any paper and stickers you like. The acid-free tape is great for old photos, but you’ll need scotch glue for bulkier decorations like this.” She held up a tartan ribbon and gestured at a bewildering array of arty supplies spread across her table. “I’ll be over in a minute.”

The older woman, Liz, with short red-streaked hair and a Cardiff shirt, patted the seat next to her. “I’ll help you get started,” she said, offering him a plate of sausage rolls.  “I like you already, Chris. You’re a brave man, joining this lot.”

“Or lucky.”  He gestured around at all the women and quickly stuffed a sausage roll in his mouth.

Liz kindly ignored the failed attempt to sound smooth and nudged him. “We’re all in a celebratory mood tonight, aren’t we?”

“We are?” He licked flakes of pastry from his lips.

“Well, yeah. Since Gemma’s finally kicked that creep out.”

Chris took a swig of wine. “Wow.” He tried to look disappointed that Gemma’s marriage had crumbled, he really did. If he hadn’t heard whispers about the guy’s relentless cheating, it might have been genuine regret too.

Liz studied him and smiled. “Trust me, it’s been a long time coming.” She gestured at the shoebox. “So, what are we working with here?”

Chris explained why he’d come, and when he pulled out a Victoria sponge recipe his mother had scrawled years ago, the paper greasy and rumpled now – anyone would think he’d brought the winning lottery ticket along.

“Great idea! You have to include that!” Gemma said, appearing over his shoulder.

“I thought it might be silly. But I remember Mum always used the same one for baking, even when my head didn’t reach the kitchen counter.”

“Okay.” She handed him a Sharpie. “Write little captions and anecdotes underneath things, on stickers or pretty paper. Scrapbooking’s all about memory keeping. She’ll love it.”

“Oi!” Someone was yelling on the street outside. You could hear it when the music lulled. Then thunderous banging on the door. “Oi!” A man’s voice bellowed through the letterbox now.

Gemma froze. Everyone looked at her. Then each other.

“Get out here Gemma! If you ignore your phone, I’m going to come over, aren’t I?”

As Chris stood up, there was a pounding down the stairs, and someone tore out the house.

“Clear off!” Darren was shouting. “You’re not wanted here!”

Suddenly, there was a clamour for the door.

“You can’t treat Auntie Gemma like crap and come back demanding to see her.”

By the time Chris got outside, a man had the kid bent double in a headlock, dragging his face into the spotlight of a streetlamp by a fistful of hair.

“Get off him!” Gemma hit the man’s back, but he didn’t let go.

“Do we have a problem here?” Chris stood in front of them, folding his arms. He hoped his big bulky frame might threaten the guy, but none of Chris’ friends would exactly describe him as intimidating, regardless of how many shoplifters he’d stopped over the years.

“Who’s this?” The man sneered. His face was pushed close to Darren’s, but his eyes fixed on Chris.

“Let. Him. Go.” Chris’ voice came out as a growl.

The husband glanced at Gemma and snorted, like it was a joke. “Make me.”

Chris seized his arm and twisted it behind him, so he let out an involuntary yelp, before releasing his grip on the boy. Taking him out by his ankles and laying him on the ground was easier than Chris anticipated. He tried to ensure the idiot couldn’t move an inch, without smashing his face on the concrete. There wasn’t even much of a struggle. The guy seemed too shocked to react in time.

Chris caught his breath for a second. “Let’s you and I talk.”

In the kitchen, he found Gemma giving her nephew a steaming mug.

“I could’ve handled it,” the boy sniffed.

“I know.” Chris nodded.

The kid wiped his nose on his sleeve. “But thanks, like. For helping.”

  “I also could have handled it, Darren.” Gemma’s voice was stern. “It’s not your job to protect me.” She turned to Chris. “Is he gone?”

He nodded again. “I think he’s got the message to stop bothering you.”

A sceptical half-laugh escaped her. “Yeah, sure.” She touched his arm. “Thanks.” Gemma clasped the back of her neck and exhaled slowly.

He knew it was ridiculous, but the adrenaline made him feel like a hero in a movie. He’d stepped in to help the kid out of a scrape, and the woman he’d spent the last fifteen years wondering about was looking at him admiringly. Well, gratefully maybe. Of course, he knew it was a fleeting moment that couldn’t last. If this were a movie, he’d sweep her up and kiss her – show her how he felt, and she’d feel the same. But he was not that guy. He’d always been clumsy – funny at best – destined to be quickly assigned the role of good friend. He knew just how awkwardly this night would pan out if he got carried away, with all those women in the next room, on-hand to dissect every misguided move he might make. And the last thing Gemma needed right now was more drama. Chris’ keys jangled as he fished them out his pocket. It was time to leave before he could make a fool of himself.

Gemma pointed her chin at the kitchen door, signalling that they could talk in the hall.

“Good to see you, Darren.” Chris patted the boy’s shoulder and walked out.

He was about to thank Gemma and gather up the old photographs, but when she stood in front of him, watching his lips, no words came out. They stood in silence, closer than ever before. Finally, she spoke.

“I know how to pick ’em, don’t I?”

Then she leaned back against the coats and pulled him toward her with both hands. Surprise tugged at the muscles in his face, his eyebrows, his growing smile.

Her mouth brushed his cheek. “Some of my most fun memories are with you, as teenagers. Did you know that?”

He shook his head, grinning. “Is that so?”

Gemma nodded. “And lately, the days you stop by for coffee are the highlight of my week.” Her breath felt deliciously warm against his ear. “I pick you this time,” she whispered. “I think maybe, it was always meant to be you.”

He kissed her, getting lost in the softness of her lips until it made his head spin.

Slowly, they pulled apart and Chris became aware of the whooping and cheering that swelled through the open doorway. Among the women, stood a teenage boy with his face in his palm. Darren shook his head but smiled up at them.

“I guess I can stay a bit longer,” Chris said, as Gemma laced her fingers through his.

“I’d really like that.”



‘When We Were Vikings’

Happy publication day to Andrew MacDonald with his debut novel ‘When We Were Vikings’!

Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Gallery Books for my Advance Reader Copy…

With a high-functioning young woman born on the fetal alcohol spectrum, planning to live life as if she’s a legendary Viking, I had an inkling this book would feel fresh and different. By the end it felt like ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ meets ‘Breaking Bad’, which you have to admit is kind of fascinating.

Zelda is learning how to gain independence, navigate romance and protect her tribe (which is particularly tricky as her older brother is getting increasingly involved in criminal dealings to keep them afloat). MacDonald presents a convincing sibling relationship and other characters feel well-drawn too: AK47, her brother’s on-off girlfriend who has taken Zelda lovingly under her wing; Dr Laird, in whom Zelda can confide; some of the people at the community center she attends, and Pearl, the mother of Zelda’s boyfriend, who is both delighted – if a little apprehensive – that her son has found young love.

When Zelda and her boyfriend Marxy, a developmentally disabled young man who attends the same Community Center, decide to become sexually active, the scene is written with an entertaining mix of humour and sensitivity. It’s one of the stand-out moments in the book and is likely to open up conversations about cognitively disabled adults gaining sexual intimacy – something that has sparked debate & concerns in many families over the years.

Don’t be fooled by the cover, this is an adult book. There are certainly dark and menacing moments for Zelda, which she fits into the narrative of a viking legend. This was quite different to other novels I’ve read. One to look out for at the end of January!

NYC Midnight: a writing competition you’ve (almost) no chance of winning… so why bother?

NYC Midnight 2020

I love ‘NYC Midnight’ and I’ll tell you why… 

The anticipation just before your category is released feels like preparing to go on a blind date, that’s going to last ALL weekend. Yikes! When they announce your challenge, it could be everything you hoped for and more – an all-consuming love affair with your favourite genre, where your charming words and wit or eerie, evocative prose will flow effortlessly. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll knock this flash fiction or short story out of the park!


Perhaps you’ll struggle to hide your disappointment, faced with a genre that doesn’t float your boat or obscure prompts that have you scratching your head. With your fountain of ideas initially running dry, you’ll desperately try to find some kind of spark, as it becomes clear this weekend will be a black hole that swallows you up. Goodbye family and friends! No fake phone call about your best buddy’s gall bladder emergency is going to rescue you from this writing date. You just have to sit down and thrash the damn thing out.

Either way, I promise it’s actually brilliant fun. 

The NYC Flash Fiction competition involves writing 1,000 words over a weekend, and the Short Story Challenge (about to begin) has a similar structure, with 4 heats in all. This is a competition where you sign up, along with roughly 5,000 other creative types around the world, and you’re placed randomly in heats.

The Annual Short Story Challenge begins this Friday at 11.59pm EST, (entry deadline Jan 16th). Writers will await the release of 3 things: a genre, a subject and a character assignment. There will be 8 days to write up to 2,500 words. Judges will choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the next round, where writers will have 3 days to write 2,000 words and so on, with the time allowance and word limits reduced each round. With so many great writers taking part internationally, both seasoned and novice, the hard truth is even really high-scoring stories don’t guarantee their writers a place in the next round.

So why bother?  

You’re given personalised feedback from a few judges after every story you submit. It takes a while to come through, admittedly, but it’s useful if you want to make progress.

While you wait for their comments and to find out how many (if any) points you scored in your heat, you can embrace the review forum chats. Participants can post their efforts for review from fellow writers after submitting. The stories people come up with are so often fantastic! Some inspired me to work harder, practice my craft; some moved me, while others were a little rough around the edges, but showing great promise. It’s a learning curve for all of us taking part. If you love stories, there’s a great community of writers on hand and it’s up to you whether you’re comfortable posting your new piece up for all in the competition to see and comment on. Most people do – it’s good to get encouragement from your fellow writers and learn to take that constructive criticism on the chin! 

Stepping outside your comfort zone is challenging and refreshing. I never would have written about the things I did otherwise… Flash fiction 1: a crime caper, in a library, with a sprinkler. Flash fiction 2: a comedy, in a hall of fame, with a projector. 

There are cash and other prizes available for those who do make it to the final 10, but I’m in it to have fun and hone my skills. Besides, how often do you find something exhilarating these days?!

I wonder what the Short Story rounds will have lined up for me this month. Horror? Mystery? Sci-Fi? If you’re a budding writer, I hope to see your piece in the review forum! 

Let me know if you have any great tips for crafting a short story, or if there’s one you’ve read and especially loved!

Maybe you’ve had a short story published and you’d like to tell me about it in the comments!

Book review

‘A Man Called Ove’ – Fredrick Backman


 I love a black comedy! It turns out ‘A Man Called Ove’ was exactly the book I needed over the holidays – it made me feel fuzzy and sentimental, even shedding a few tears as I finished it, which I hadn’t expected when I first picked it up.

  A blue collar worker, Ove now finds himself out of work and alone, with neighbours intent on being as infuriating as possible. He struggles to understand the changing modern world, in which things that are functional, fixable and reliable don’t seem to be important. As Backman drip feeds us Ove’s back-story, (he has plenty of problems to throw at Ove over the years) he soon has us rooting for the grumpy old codger, and we reflect on how our experiences shape us.

  The story might be sweet and the writing has a lightness of touch, but the sharpness of Ove’s tongue and the dark undertones (it’s not a spoiler to say all Ove wants to do is kill himself in peace) stop it being too saccharine sweet.

  With warmth and humour, Backman has created a cast of characters you can invest in, especially sulky, rude but ultimately lovable Ove, and Parvaneh, the relatable, heavily pregnant, Persian neighbour who moves in across the street with her family.

  We all know a little kindness and understanding go a long way, and Backman’s novel encourages empathy without being preachy. This novel reminds us it’s good to reach out to one another, finding reasons to really live, rather than merely exist.

  You’ll enjoy it if… you love black comedies or books where a real sense of community and unlikely friendships emerge.

  What didn’t add up for me… I had the impression the cantankerous 59 year old was much much older. Maybe that was intentional, as if he has always seemed rather old for his years.

Let me know your thoughts, especially if you’ve watched the movie version (which I haven’t yet). Happy reading!

Book review

‘Queenie’ – Candice Carty-Williams

Ah Queenie, a character hitting self-destruct and making all the worst decisions for her mental (and physical) well being. I knew this was a voice I wanted to keep reading right from the gynaecology exam at the start.

Queenie is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman, struggling to hold it together. Cold-shouldered by her white boyfriend Tom, during their break, and with her self esteem at rock bottom, she spirals into a cycle of sexual encounters with increasingly terrible men.

All the while, Queenie tries to navigate her place at the newspaper culture supplement where she works. She’s frustrated at the apathetic reactions to her pitch to write about Black Lives Matter. (The bosses favour meaningless content). We meet her at a time she’s adrift in her job, and perhaps dangerously close to losing it, without the financial safety net some of her peers have.

Throughout the novel, I felt like a friend who’d been invited into Queenie’s world, as though I was one of ‘The Corgis’, an aptly titled WhatsApp group she sets up in order to connect with friends from different strands of her life.

The voice Candice Carty-Williams writes with is warm, fresh and conversational, like Queenie is gradually unpacking years of hurt that has led her to this point whilst taking us along on a rollercoaster ride. I love Queenie’s sharp humour and raw vulnerability.

Whilst the tone can be humorous, don’t be deceived by reviews that call this debut novel ‘breezy’. This is a writer who weaves in some pretty weighty subject matter with confidence, from race and gentrification to abuse and mental health.

At a local bookstore, I was lucky enough to listen to Candice Carty-Williams discuss her novel and attitudes towards counseling, particularly within the Jamaican community, with Nicola Yoon. She reinforced that more openness to discussing our mental health and seeking help is needed. One of my favorite, touching moments in the novel, is when Queenie’s Jamaican grandparents make their feelings on counseling clear, highlighting how tricky this openness can be.

Setting up ‘The Corgis’ was a useful way to illustrate how modern friends confide in and support one another when they aren’t there in person, allowing for instant reactions from friends with very distinct, convincing voices. I found her friendships especially relatable, so it was great to see their own connections forming during these entertaining 4-way conversations.

This was never going to be a romantic love story, in spite of numerous flings while pining for her ex. Perhaps it’s fair to say this more a story about self love and the power of friends and family when you’re trying to heal. I did find her decision-making almost relentlessly frustrating, but that’s really the point. She has to hit rock bottom and reasons for her behaviour patterns emerge.

For me, the book feels like a slice of home, but I still found the way the writer explores race a great eye-opener as a white British reader. This includes the casual racism of Queenie’s white boyfriend’s family, and some men’s attitudes to dating women of colour are highlighted. It was revealing to hear Carty-Williams discuss the difference in experience between her white and black female friends on dating sites. The exact same men sometimes used shockingly different voices (polite and gentlemanly vs crude and disrespectful) when talking to friends with different racial heritage – except the friends talked about these men and found out about it. This helped inform Queenie’s experiences with men in the book.

I’m so pleased to see the attention this writer is getting here, across the pond. In the crowded room in Brooklyn where I heard her talk, everyone found her to be graceful, honest and inspiring. It turns out even seeing the gorgeous cover in prominent positions in bookstores everywhere, has brought some people to tears. From conversations I’ve had, many women feel proud to see black female identity explored so honestly and embraced, not just in the UK, but certainly here in the US too. Representation matters!

Looking forward to discussing this one at my next book group. Grab a copy of ‘Queenie’ if you haven’t already and let me know what you think.