Topic of the Week: March 29-April 2, 2010

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Joining us on Friday, April 2, is Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Wench.

The deepest pock on the face of the United States is undoubtedly the era of slavery. One of the most important books of the year, Wench is a historically accurate look at the complex relationships born of slavery. Four slave women from plantations scattered around the South are taken by their masters to a hunting/fishing resort in the free North, given latitude to explore, to think and to scheme. Freedoms unimaginable back on the plantation.

You could call them mistresses, but that’s only a euphemism. The women featured in Wench, Lizzy, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu, are sex slaves to the southern masters they serve. Complicating the relationships are the feelings of love, hate and indifference these women have for their masters. The choices that seem so tempting—escape into the free north—become another form of bondage when they consider the children they’ve born of these sires. Relationships between the slave women one to another form a circle of understanding that leads to a bittersweet ending readers won’t easily forget.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s fiction and essays have appeared in StoryQuarterly, Robert Olen Butler Prize Stories 2009, The Kenyon Review, PMS: PoemMemoirStory, North Carolina Literary Review, and Richard Wright Newsletter. Born and raised in Memphis, a graduate of Harvard, and a former University of California postdoctoral fellow, Perkins-Valdez teaches creative writing at the University of Puget Sound. She splits her time between Washington, DC and Seattle, Washington.  Wench is her first novel.

Follow Dolen Perkins-Valdez on Twitter at @Dolen.

Read chatscript from Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s visit in #litchat here.