Lady Q: The Making of a Latin Queen (paperback)
(Chicago Review Press)
By Reymundo Sanchez and Sonia Rodriguez
ISBN: 1556527225
ISBN13: 9781556527225
288 pages

Offering a rarely seen female perspective on gang life, this raw and powerful memoir tells not only of one woman’s struggle to survive the streets but also of her ascent to the top ranks of the new mafia, where the only people more dangerous than rival gangs were members of her own. At age 5, Sonia Rodriguez’s stepfather began to abuse her; at 10, she was molested by her uncle and beaten by her mother when she told on him; and by 13, her home had become a hangout for the Latin Kings and Queens who were friends with her older sister. Threatened by rival gang members at school, Sonia turned away from her education and extracurricular activities in favor of a world of drugs and violence. The Latin Kings, one of the largest and most notorious street gangs in America, became her refuge, but its violence cost her friends, freedom, self-respect, and nearly her life. As a Latin Queen, she experienced the exhilarating highs and unbelievable lows of gang life. From being shot at by her own gang and kicked out at age 18 with an infant daughter to rejoining the gang and distinguishing herself as a leader, her legacy as Lady Q was cemented both for her willingness to commit violence and for her role as a drug mule.

"To this day I wonder what my life would be like if my mother told me she loved me, held me, took my side once or twice in an argument. She made me think the whole world was against me so I had to fight for everything. I've learned that's not the  way things have to be."

While Lady Q presents a solid, engaging narrative, it is not a story to be read for literary value. Instead this is a tale of epic sociological proportions that should be used as a tool to save lives. There are implications of gender, class, and race/ethnicity. Sonia's story is one that is not told enough as girls are just as susceptible to the lure of a false family and false love that gangs pervade. This is the kind of story that should be required reading for every parent, educator, child care provider, social worker, etc. Anyone who cares for or works with children on a daily basis should take this tale to heart and use it to either remedy this generational family dysfunction or take proactive measures to prevent its inception. At the onset of the story, there is that all too familiar glimmer of the hope of education as Sonia's salvation but, in typical fashion, a lack of nurturing quickly diffuses that hope. Looking at the quote I shared above, the love and concern for her well being she sought did not have to come from her mother. Often anyone showing a genuine interest in a young person's success will suffice.

"On more than one occasion during my work with Sonia, I became upset with her over her refusal to           understand the damage she was doing to her son. I tried to get through to her head that she needed to think   about leaving the 'hood and try to give her son, who is an honor roll student, a better life. I reminded her that she herself had been an honor roll student whose  mother's carelessness allowed her to get lost."

Reymundo's criticism is a bit harsh considering Sonia has not good parenting examples. However, I do understand the place from which he comes. He knows Sonia wants better for her children and he just wants her to fight harder. What I take from his criticism, though, is that he's saying "Give a damn!" It's hard when you not only don't know any other way but when the means are not available for you to even attempt a different lifestyle. On a personal note: I grew up in a working class, single parent home. I could have been subjected to the same world from which Sonia came but, my mother sacrificed for us to live in a decent neighborhood with a decent school and just to be surrounded by those with ambition. In essence, she gave a damn and this story gives me an infinite amount of gratitude that she did.

Thanks to Condor Book Tours and the publisher for providing this book.
Precious Williams is practically born into foster care. It's at ten weeks old that she's brought to Mrs. Taylor whom she'll call Nanny. Meanwhile, Precious Anita Williams will be known as "Nin" in reverence of Nanny's beloved literary character, Topsy who is described as a pickaninny in Uncle Tom's Cabin. This sentiment adds to the propriety of this seemingly loosely regulated and trendy practice She's placed with Nanny by her Nigerian mother via an ad in a publication specifically for arranging foster care. The practice was often done between the birth parents and the foster family while the former attended school in England. These arrangements were typically between African parents and white foster parents.

Precious' mother however, is not a student and is descended from Nigerian royalty. She  simply doesn't want to be a mother. Yet, she maintains this inconsistent presence in her daughter's life for most of her childhood. Her complaints that Precious is "dull" and the taunting of schoolmates about her being "coloured" leave Precious floating aimlessly between two worlds. One world sees her as Nigerian though she has no connection with this side of herself and the other world is the one she lives in surrounded by white caretakers and school children. She feels thoroughly British but longs to have a sense of blackness. 

Color Blind is a fascinating, though often heartbreaking, memoir of a girl navigating race in that she not only wants to find her identity as a person of color, but also who she is beyond the color of her skin.

Disclosure: This book was supplied by the publisher.

About the author
Precious Williams was first published aged eight when her poem took first prize in a poetry competition (she won £2).

Since then she has been a Contributing Editor at Elle, Cosmopolitan and the Mail on Sunday. Precious' work has also been published in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, Glamour, Korean Vogue, New York magazine, Wallpaper and several other publications. Her journalism focuses on health and lifestyle features and celebrity interviews. Notable interviewees include Nina Simone, Yoko Ono, Jon Bon Jovi, P Diddy, Bryan Ferry, Lenny Kravitz and Naomi Campbell.

Born in the UK, Precious is of Sierra Leonean and Nigerian descent and she has lived in London and in New York. She studied Periodical Journalism at the London College of Printing and English Language & Literature at Oxford.

Her first book, Precious: A True Story is a memoir about her childhood in foster care. The book is titled Color Blind in the US. Both editions will be published by Bloomsbury in August 2010.

Now I'd like to extend a chance to my readers to win a copy of this amazing memoir. In keeping with a central theme of Color Blind, I'd like the comments to respond to this question: What defines you? This does not have to be a dissertation but a simple statement on how you self-identify. Entries will be accepted through 11:59 pm (CST) Sunday, July 18 and a winner announced Monday, July 19.  Open to U.S. residents.