‘Queen Sugar’ TV Review: By the Spit

OWN drama Queen Sugar is focusing this season on a main character’s evolution as a memoirist and how her memoir is impacting her family.

Nova (Rutina Wesley) has written a memoir spilling many unexpected family secrets, but as her family struggles with the secrets coming out of the shadows, she’s enjoying the limelight of having a best-selling, critically acclaimed book.

After reconnecting with her former professor-mentor Dr. Octavia Laurent (Cree Summer) whom she’s also started sleeping with again, Nova learns her book is being shortlisted for the National Book Award. Octavia, who went off on Nova for a measly mention in the book, tries to convince Nova that she doesn’t need accolades to prove her voice. It’s obvious this blast from the past is a hater, but Nova doesn’t see that yet, with even inviting Octavia to an interview about the book as part of the press tour.

During the interview, Nova is told by the reporter that her sister, Charley, is running for office to stop a highway proposal that would affect their family land. The sisters haven’t been speaking to each other since Nova put in her book that Charley paid off her basketballer ex-husband’s mistresses. When the reporter drops that bomb, Octavia interjects her wisdom. “Black girl magic is a continuum,” she says to detract attention, a quotable.

Later in the hotel room, Nova brings up her family. She is still bothered that she didn’t know about Charley running for office. Octavia says family members are “biological accidents,” advice Nova doesn’t care for at the moment. “Sometimes, we have to put family in the rearview to get to where we need to go,” Octavia adds, another quotable.

At a networking soiree, Octavia goes up to a woman she knows. The woman immediately praises Nova, who is left by the hors d’oeuvre table, in front of Octavia and proposes asking Nova to edit a collection of essays on race. Octavia says she would be a better candidate for the project since she’s been looking for one. But the woman says she would prefer emerging writers for the project. Then Octavia returns to Nova and lies about singing her praises. Nova looks at her mentor fly hungrily to one person to another.

Things later come to a head in the hotel room when Nova approaches Octavia about not telling her about the editing opportunity. Octavia tells Nova that she needs 20 years of prerequisites to complete such work. That she “made” Nova. The jealousy is palpable, and Nova thanks her mentor for opening doors but she will continue to walk in her path and reminds Octavia that she invited herself on the book tour. But Octavia retorts, “Emotional labor is still work. I refuse to be treated like an afterthought,” a third quotable. They part ways. Nova later calls Charley to congratulate her on the run.

The mentor storyline stuck out in this episode. What happens when you’re a mentor to someone who reaches the pinnacle of success you always wanted? What happens if your mentor doesn’t seem happy that you found success? These questions possibly come up for writers at times when their dreams come true as some people who worked alongside them throughout their careers may not continue with them.

Other storylines still have the imprint of the memoir’s effect. Charley goes to the Latinx section of town to get votes with her boyfriend and later deals with a brick thrown into her headquarters’ window. Seven-year-old Blue (Ethan Hutchison) gets a child psychologist to deal with learning that Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe), the younger brother of Nova and Charley, is not his biological father. Violet (Tina Lifford) realizes that she may have post-traumatic stress disorder after Nova’s book brought back her violent ex-husband weeks ago.

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