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‘Queen Sugar’ TV Review: Pleasure is Black

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‘Queen Sugar’ TV Review: Pleasure is Black

Queen Sugar returned for its fourth season with Nova Bordelon (Rutina Wesley), the activist journalist of the sugarcane business family, preparing for the launch of her book and realizing her family might not be ready for it.

In the beginning of the episode, Nova is creating a video about Blessing and Blood, looking confident while vaguely describing her “American family.” But minutes later, she’s at a restaurant chugging wine and telling her agent that she’s nervous about the impact of her memoir because she failed to prepare her family for its contents, even though she’s learned the New York Times plans to review the book.

“They know it’s coming, but they don’t know what’s in it,” Nova says.

Back in Louisiana, in their summer attire with umbrellas, the family parades up to aunt Violet (Tina Lifford)‘s new restaurant, Vi’s Prized Pies & Diner, where Nova’s antisocial demeanor stands out.

“This is the last we’ll see her serve anybody,” a woman tells Prosper (Henry G. Sanders), who works with the sugarcane business, as they chat with Nova serving behind the counter. She goes on to add her sister saw a billboard in New York City advertising Nova’s book that’s being compared to the works of Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates. “What’s the book about? Can we get a little preview? Or a taste?”

Violet’s new husband, Hollywood (Omar J. Dorsey), overhears the conversation. As Nova turns to the kitchen, Hollywood whispers his thoughts on the book to her.

“When do we get to read your book?” Hollywood asks. “You ain’t been shy about nothing you did. Something not right about that book.”

Nova hesitates.

Hollywood adds the family should’ve been prepared for what the memoir would entail because he has a feeling that family secrets have been spilled without permission.

Outside in the dining area, Violet expresses her dislike for her nephew Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) passing his son Blue like “day-old bread” in his custody exchange between his ex Darla (Bianca Lawson), who recently revealed he’s not Blue’s father. 1990s teen R&B sensation Tevin Campbell made his high-profile appearance singing at the festive opening as a Bordelon cousin.

Guiltily, Nova ambushes Charley (Dawn-­Lyen Gardner) at work the next day while her sister, dressed impeccably in a taupe pantsuit ready to head to women’s conference panel, is confused by the surprise. Nova hands her sister a copy of the manuscript and later visits her brother Ralph Angel to leave a copy as she wipes a tear away.

At the conference, Charley is getting revved up during her inspirational speech while receiving a leadership award until a reporter bombards her with questions in the crowd. The reporter claims she received an advanced copy of Nova’s manuscript and it read Charley had secretly paid off one of her basketball player ex-husband’s mistresses, which happened two seasons ago. Once Charley gets home, she pops the cork on a bottle of wine and chugs as much as she can before laying her eyes on the manuscript.

In the morning, she calls Ralph Angel to warn him to not look at the manuscript until she talks to him. On the car ride to talk to her brother, Charley calls her lawyer to send her sister a cease-and-desist over the book.

Meanwhile, Hollywood picks up the manuscript on Violet’s desk and reads the first page to see it disparages Violet calling her a self-proclaimed “strong black woman” but saying how she lived her life doesn’t show that evidence.

Elsewhere, Ralph Angel, intrigued by Charley’s warning to not look at the manuscript, decides to look at the manuscript. He reads the paragraph about how he has a “fragile ego” as it criticizes his drama with Darla for never questioning Blue’s paternity when she is a recovering drug addict.

Nova visits her father’s mausoleum at the cemetery, laying a fresh bouquet of flowers.

“I’m afraid, Daddy, that everybody will not understand what I’m doing, but I’m offering up my work to see that, to be better,” she cries on the ground. “Because I grew up with too many secrets. You did, too. And it’s time for us to be as free as you wanted us to be. Please give me the strength to see this through.”

The episode ends with a telling preview for the rest of the season with the memoir tearing the family apart while the audience waits to see what these secrets are. It’s interesting to see a TV series based on a book have a storyline where a personal story could be destructive to a family. The impact of memoirs doesn’t seem to be brought up in the book world as authors most likely don’t touch on the subject with their families or generally say their families are supportive. Queen Sugar, with the vision brought to the forefront by main producers Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey, will be a standout this season on examining the impact of a published book on a family.

“This is the last time I want to look at you,” Violet says to Nova in the preview.

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