The Ladies No.1 Detective Agency” books by Alexander McCall Smith.
The story begins on Precious' father's deathbed. The loss of this relationship really saddens her because he appears to have been her only parent and he really invested in his daughter. He took pride in teaching her everything that he would have taught a son. He left her a rich woman by leaving her a huge heard of cows, which she sold as seed money to start her own business. Here, we have an example of a positive daughter father relationship -- and a wonderful adult Black female character that is full of agency.
Precious however, is still a haunted woman because she is a survivor of domestic violence, and lost her child after her husband beat her. This haunts her throughout the entirety of the season, but she is determined to keep going and to create a new life for herself. She never runs from this fear and knows that this loss, as painful as it is, is a part of who she is and who she will become.
The other really exciting thing about Precious is that she is played by a plus-sized woman, which is referred to as a "traditional figure" on the show. There are certainly scenes like when she investigates the actions of a lecherous husband where her fatness does feel like it is a fetish; however, throughout the show, Precious is constructed as naturally beautiful (no surprise since we are talking about Jill Scott) and confident. And unlike most representations of fat women in the media, Precious is proud and filled with wonderful self-esteem. She gives meaning to the words fat is beautiful. The dresses she wears are to die for also (yep I want one, that’s me asking for a link btw)
When I thought that I could not possibly love this show anymore, they introduced the character of three disabled children; two twin boys who have Down Syndrome and a little girl in a wheel chair. Most often when the disabled appear in the media, they are played by the TAB, but this is not the case in, “The Ladies No.1 Detective Agency”. The boys are not given lines to speak, but the little girl in the wheel chair becomes a reoccurring character, and we learn that she has the same dreams as any girls of her age.
Critics of the show have complained that it has very little nuance, and that all of the bad characters are really bad -- and the good ones really good -- and while I cannot argue the point, I feel that this is more than compensated for by the overwhelmingly positive images of marginalized bodies. I didn’t even realize until I came to the end of the series, that this was the fresh breath I so desperately needed. I have written before about the invasion of Whiteness into the consciousness, but it really is not evident how damaging this is to the psyche until one is surrounded by the beautiful shades of Blackness. It is comforting to see images that reflect you, that you can identify with. White people do not have this problem, as the majority of media images that they consume, constantly reaffirms Whiteness as worthwhile.
There is much to love in “The Ladies No.1 Detective Agency.” If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it, if for no other reason than the positive images of Blackness. I am tired of seeing us play the role of drug dealers, prostitutes, and the downtrodden as though we are not capable of more. If you have seen the show, I am very curious to know what you thought and which characters touched you the most.