The American Queen

Written by Vanessa Miller
Review by Susan McDuffie

1865: Enslaved twenty-four-year-old Louella yearns for freedom. The selling of her mother which wrenched her family apart, the horrific lynching of her father, and the welts and scars she bears on her own back and within her psyche cannot extinguish her vision of a “Happy Land” where people can live freely with dignity and respect. At the Civil War’s end, Louella and her husband leave the plantation and lead a band of newly freed people out of Mississippi to find a place where Louella’s dream of the “Happy Land” can bear fruit. After months of migration, they finally find refuge in lands on the border of North and South Carolina, and for at least forty years the Kingdom of the Happy Land flourishes.

The American Queen recounts the true story of that journey and that kingdom, where people worked together to make sure everyone was provided for and lived in dignity and cooperation. We experience, through the novel, the countless difficulties the four hundred citizens of that land faced and overcame in order to achieve their dream. The book is also the story of Louella’s own personal journey, a woman who transcends the bitterness of her enslaved origins to become a loving leader of her people, a true American Queen.

This novel shines a bright light on a little-known moment in American history, one that deserves to be far more widely seen and honored. An inspiring story of resilience, determination, hope, and the human spirit, this story cries out to be remembered and restored to history. This fascinating novel will go far towards accomplishing that goal. It’s an uplifting read, one that is sorely needed these days. Highly recommended.