Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sweet Potato Queens

I love the idea of the Sweet Potato Queens. They think that if you want to be Queen of something, like a St. Patrick's Day parade, you should get yourself a crown and something to ride on. But the Sweet Potato Queens are baby boomers, and so their wishes include inexplicable stuff like majorette boots and a "full viking kitchen" (just imagine my mental picture when my eyes first passed over THAT phrase).

Odd wishes aside, though, the author of the Sweet Potato Queens books, Jill Conner Browne, is a good storyteller. She recycles tried and true themes, such as that a woman who is accused of a sexual transgression by her man should go on the offensive, a theme first sounded in literature by the Wife of Bath. In true southern style, many of her stories involve food, and she includes recipes. I actually keep a copy of her first book, The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love, in my kitchen so I can find the recipe for "death chicken" when I get a hankerin' for it.

I recommend her first four books highly: The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love, God Save the Sweet Potato Queens, The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook (And Financial Planner), and The Sweet Potato Queens' Field Guide to Men. I do NOT recommend any of her novels. I also would urge you to pass over The Sweet Potato Queens' Wedding Planner and Divorce Guide and The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Raising Children for Fun and Profit. This last title is her most recent, and like the wedding planner, it seems to me to be an attempt to cash in on her previous success. There is one good line in the book about raising children, and it is this: "If worry burned calories, there would be no fat parents, that's for sure."

The only use I have for the book on raising children is if you know anyone who justifies leaving a baby to cry himself to sleep by citing child rearing "experts" or beating on a child by citing the Bible, she has some dandy (and quite logical) things to say on p. 92 (crying) and p. 224 (beating).

Here's a little of the flavor of Jill's story-telling, from her first book:

One time one of the Queens, Tammy, and I were out for our early-morning walk around the track at the Y where we work out. Tammy was in a major funk about something, and I'd been practically tap-dancing around the track, trying in vain to perk her up. I was pulling out all my best stuff, and nothing was working. And then I glanced off to the right, behind Tammy, into the parking lot of the hotel at the other end of the track. Under the brilliant beam of the streetlight stood...a nekkid man. Now I say nekkid because that's what he was. There's a profound difference between naked and nekkid. Naked is proud, noble, graceful, without shame or the need for it. Nekkid is, on the other hand...well, it's nekkid.
And so I said to Tammy, "There's a nekkid man." We paused momentarily while she turned to look.
She nodded in agreement. "There certainly is."
He was just strolling along, not a care in the world, not a stitch on. He made no effort whatsoever to conceal his parts, although I saw nothing worthy of so ostentatious a public display. About this time he looked our way. Tammy said cheerily, "Hi!"
"Hi!" he said. "How are ya'll this mornin'?"
"Oh, much better now, thank you," she replied, the absolute soul of politeness. The nekkid man seemed to appreciate her gracious attitude.
You see, in this very small verbal exchange, Tammy upheld not only the sacred doctrine of Southern hospitality but the very highest standard of the Sweet Potato Queens. She spoke kindly to the man, regardless of his race, creed, color, religion, social status, or appearance, which was nekkid. I was proud to call her my friend.

The audiobook version of The SPQ's Book of Love is read by the author in a well-enunciated voice and (surprisingly) not too much of a southern accent for general audiences. It's a great mood-lifter for when you're driving around and need a laugh. Like my audiobook of David Sedaris' Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, however, you don't want to be driving the kids around while listening to most of this stuff.

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