The Wench

Strong women, impossible situations.Wench: A Novel

The women who took the journey from various parts of the antebellum south to the resorts of the north to be a "couple" with their slaveowners, endured beyond modern comprehension.

Love, technically and in the purest sense, knows no color, culture, ethnicity, religion, color, economics.  In the purest sense, it is blind.  Yet, can it be pure when one is owned by the other and the reason for the "holiday" was the sexual exploitation of the other?

My questions probably resonated with some of the women in the book like the oldest one who was given away to the resort owner for his depraved sexual exploits to the youngest who was confused by the promises of her "first and only" who fathered children with her and dangled freedom in front of them like a carrot, she being almost white herself, her children technically 1/8th white, the owner not wanting to lose his "property" and "investment."

Throughout the reading of The Wench, I had many questions and also felt the pain and confusion of not truly owning one's womanhood when the prospect of being taken at any moment and in any way loomed high in air like the stifling Ohio heat that was Xenia.  I wondered why the women didn't escape and realized the men held the children out as a bargaining chip, something to hold psychological control.

One, then two, realized that the empty promises and freedom to walk hand-in-hand and live in a little cottage "like a wife" was not worth the chattal ownership and lose of self.  One succumbed to that lost after she experienced the ultimate loss of all that flowed through her body.

This book is filled with powerful writing and imagery and a tense undercurrent that was part of the south and north just before the civil war.  There was the quiet and efficient work of the Underground Railroad and the freedom one felt when finally making it to New York and a "room of my own" working for rich white people in the north.

Slavery is at the very heart and fiber of this country.  This book demonstrated that emotions, family ties, cultural ties are all tangled up when questions of economy, property, rights, and legality are used to control one's soul.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez made the nuances of slavery and the white man-black/mulatto/quadroon/octaroon woman much more vivid than a lot of writings that simply state the fact.  This delved beneath the fact and into the place where there is more untold.  There were close intimacies and a deep understanding of one versus the other more so than simply working in the field.  It presented dangers to women that are often undiscussed when reviewing slavery in the United States.

I highly recommend this book, ironically, it is almost summer time, perfect for reading just vivid, poetic, and imaginative prose.  Let Xenia come alive and then celebrate the rebirth and new life of the resort that now fulfills those silent promises that were sounded out in covert words on paper.


  1. Hello Taye'...

    This is officially my new favorite blog!

    We have the same reading interests. Let me be your first member and try to invite similar-thinking ladies... if you will do the same!

    This is my own book reviews blog, which also promotes my own multicultural romance novels(starring black women):

    Again, your blog really inspires me Taye'!

    - Melissa Kyeyune. (Black girl in Uganda and avid reader of all things concerning African and African American women's history).

    p.s. I really want to read 'At the Dark End of The Street' as well. :)

    1. Melissa
      I would be happy to read and friend your blog! I love works by black women! I am of Creole heritage living in the States (ancestors from Haiti and Madagascar).

      Your romance novels will be the first ones that I read! Thank you for visiting and please, invite others!


    2. Thanks for supporting mu novels... and I will drive as many black women to this site as I can! It's great for booklovers.

  2. I like your analyses of books. I wish you could do it for all the books you listed on the right! I'll check them out myself.

  3. Thank you Melissa!

    I have written book reviews for many of the books listed, search my archives! I have been on a journey reading Black Female Literature for the past couple years, really, the reason I started the blog. Thanks for reading, and please, share the site!


    1. Hi Taye!!

      Just seen your reply. Thanks for joing my blog and I'm glad I now know a real Creole! Great, fascinating history your people have. I wish there was more published work about it!

  4. Melissa

    Hello! Thank you for the support. Please read my later posts regarding the free people of color and books related to our unique history. I listed several that give a unique perspective.

    Visit often and please, send fellow booklovers to come and have a latte and a read with me!

    Take care


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