The Inner Life of the Inner City
Roza Esterhazy is a mixed-up kid. Eighteen years old and on the threshold of adulthood, she feels powerless in the face of a world that hasn’t adequately prepared her for adult life. She is riddled with anxiety about the world’s problems, the problems of her classmates at an inner-city high school in Corona, Queens. As an American of multicultural heritage, she struggles to find her place in society where the odds are stacked against people like her.
At the outset, she is on an airplane heading as far away from Queens as she can. She’s heading back to the city her mother had fled from in the 1980s. Roza’s voyage is a kind of reverse immigration – she’s running because of a student protest that ended in tragedy. She alludes to the protest and its bloody end throughout the novel, with flashbacks tormenting her throughout.
Once she lands, she struggles to come to terms with what happened and what part she played in the tragedy. She grapples with guilt and blame – were the students to blame for what happened or was it the fault of overzealous police? She weighs how fear quells courage in an oppressive society. She confronts the grey reality of her interim home, which also symbolizes the painful haze of her mind after the trauma she’s endured.
Her longing for home is visceral, reflected in the flashbacks of school and relationships that are woven through her daily existence. Flashbacks that reflect the absurdity of the inner-city high school experience, where kids are meant to learn an inimical thread of history that has little to do with their own reality, that places many of them in the position of the conquered and exploited. Yet the experience also gives her the opportunity to reveal and attempt to repair her own traumas and iniquities – of the past and present.
Queen of Corona is a foray into the mind and heart of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, torn from her destiny because she dared to stand up and speak up for those who don’t have a voice. A glimpse inside the hopeless hallways of New York City’s failing public schools. When a high school protest turns bloody, the police turn on the innocent.
It is the story of a young woman running to escape her fate, only to dig deeper into who she is and where she is going.
And it is a poignant lesson on how fear is the most dangerous aspect of our Trumped-up existence.
Queen of Corona is available at indie bookshops:
Graphics + cover art by • Nadia Honorata •