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Highlights in the Charts 

To celebrate the 100th issue of The Publishing Post, we’re revisiting our first-ever Highlights in the Charts, which reviewed Maya Angelou’s And Still I Rise and Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. 


And Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

A Revisit and Review by Marisha Puk


I wanted to look at the poems And Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman, classic examples of Angelou’s impact and status that still hold up today.


I first came across Maya Angelou during my A-levels. I found her words impactful and her style forthright. Re-reading this book made me realise how much meaning lay behind the lexis of her poetry. 


And Still I Rise, the poem that alludes to the name of her collection, begins with a direct address about her ability to rise above negative people in society. I rise” is repeated throughout, making the overall message clearer: she rises above her battles, and we should, too. There are also lots of references to precious materials to represent her high value, such as “gold mines,”“diamonds,” and “oil wells." Angelou does not hesitate to present herself as important, and I admire her self-love. 


These ideas are furthered in Phenomenal Woman, where Angelou explains that although she doesn’t look like a supermodel, she is a phenomenal woman who attracts many men. She explains what makes her a phenomenal woman, saying, “It’s in the reach of my arms, The span of my hips, The stride of my step, The curl of my lips.” Angelou lists the parts of herself she loves, encouraging the reader to think about what makes them phenomenal. 

Angelou was part of the Black Arts Movement, and many of her poems comment on contemporary society, including race and gender equality, which makes And Still I Rise a powerful read. Although it was published in 1978, much of the social commentary is still relevant today. Overall, I highly suggest reading any of Maya Angelou’s works, even if it is only one poem or all of her books. 


Queenie / People Person by Candice Carty-Williams 

A Revisit and Review by Jenna Tomlinson


For anyone who hasn’t yet read it, you’re in for a treat. Following our eponymous character’s life as a newly single young Black woman when she and her boyfriend of three years decide to take a break, Queenie delivers a social commentary on the experiences of BIPOC women, female friendships, modern sexuality and mental health humorously and entertainingly. 


Queenie is the ultimate main character: she makes mistakes; you empathise with her; at times, you wish you could grab her and say, What are you doing? Carty-Williams has created a wholly developed, believable main character and a truly diverse and immersive world in her novel. The book took the literary world by storm, with Queenie being a go-to choice for book clubs, awards nominations and critical accolades. It’s no wonder that it was snapped up to be developed as a drama series by Channel 4. 


And it’s in this development that Queenie's true impact has been realised. It has come at a true zeitgeist moment in television and literature, where stories of women’s mental health, relationships, friendships and experiences have achieved immeasurable success. You only need to consider Nicola Coughlan’s series Big Mood about dealing with bipolar disorder and depression; the Barbie movie – considering the role of women in society and societal expectations of gender, or the dramatisation of Anne Lister’s Victorian diaries in Gentleman Jack. Queenie, the series, has achieved huge success, with a strong cast and a score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. 


But a stellar debut can sometimes be a poisoned chalice for writers, making it difficult to match such success with a second novel. Unless, of course, you’re Candice Carty-Williams. Her follow-up, People Person, published in 2022, was eagerly anticipated and showed that she was not a one-trick pony. 


People Person follows the five adult children of Cyril Pennington, who were thrown together after an unexpected event. It explores the legacy of Cyril’s inability to provide emotional stability for his children. The half-siblings, born of four different mothers, share a myriad of cultures and backgrounds. Carty-Williams effortlessly weaves the struggles of identity, culture and belonging into their stories. People Person tackles many difficult issues, as Queenie did, in the same entertaining and empathic way. 


Just as she did in Queenie, in People Person, Carty-Williams creates characters to root for and are also believable. Dimple, the sibling whose life events bring the novel together, is not always a likeable character, but I loved this – it makes Dimple more human. The family is dysfunctional, and the novel has a darker, more cynical tone than Queenie, but I think this goes to prove Carty-Williams’s range as a writer. 


Ultimately, we picked a blinder of a novel to review in Queenie for our first issue, which has only been substantiated by Carty-Williams’s continued success. If you haven’t read Queenie, add it to your to-be-read pile and enjoy Channel 4’s dramatisation. But make sure you don’t sleep on People Person either. I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

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