August 9, 2010

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:08 pm by lbrosch

Just finished reading Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez and I highly recommend this historical fiction novel based on the history of slave life before the Civil War. A large part of the setting is Tawawa House, a resort in Ohio which catered to rich landowners who came for a summer retreat and brought their slave wenches or mistresses as they were represented in the story. The wishes and dreams of each of four women mistresses are brought to life in a very realistic manner for the time. The main character Lizzie has a master for whom she thinks she has real romantic feelings. She has been well cared for by the standards of the day with her own bedroom in the master’s house after bearing him his only two children. She has received special treatment since her early teens and has never known true suffering as a slave. Her friends, whom she meets summers at Tawawa House, have different stories of their experiences and over the years she becomes more enlightened to the hopes and dreams of being a free woman. She shares her ability to read by reading the pamphlet obtained from an abolitionist to her companions. Further events which I will not reveal result in all of them being split up as the story is told. Lizzie must make a decision as to running for freedom or staying with her life on the plantation where she is close to her children. The story explores the difficult choices that these slaves must make. Freedom, is it possible and at what price?  I found the story compelling in that it brought to light many practices that I was not aware of between white masters and their black mistresses. The setting of Tawawa House is a place that really existed much as described in the novel. It was closed as a resort in 1855 and then sold to the Methodist Episcopal Church who established the Ohio African University. After the Civil War it was renamed the Wilberforce University which continues today.

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