Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Four slave women’s lives are changed forever by meeting once a year while taken on vacations to Ohio as their master’s mistresses. While they may enjoy more privilege than most slaves, the desire for freedom is never far from their minds once they learn that there is another option.
Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu share their different experiences with being a slave/mistress at the same time meeting meet abolitionists and free blacks. This enlivens a stronger thirst for escape in Reenie and Mamu than the other women and their desire will lead to a fiery destruction.
Lizzie loves her master and the children she has had with them. Sweet couldn’t bear to leave her 5 babies behind. Is Lizzie’s love real? What happens when we lose everything and are the only one left behind? What price would you be willing to pay for freedom?
I honestly couldn’t put Wench down. I read it in less than one day because the suspense that Perkins-Valdez builds while pulling you into her characters was intense. Obviously, I know nothing of slavery, yet I could almost feel myself looking over these women’s shoulders. They were all well developed and I could understand all of their reasons for being with their masters, loving them, and their mixed desire for escape.
Even now, we women make compromises in life to get what we want. That was what, for me, made Wench so tangible. It was a learning experience, an escape, and a great read.
Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s fiction and essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, African American Review, North Carolina Literary Review, and the Richard Wright Newsletter. Born and raised in Memphis, a graduate of Harvard, and a former University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Perkins-Valdez teaches creative writing at the University of Puget Sound. She splits her time between Washington, D.C. and Seattle, Washington. This is her first novel.

  • Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006170654X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061706547