How many novels have you ever read that actually upset you? Moved you, frustrated you, left you unsure how you felt about the story itself?
That’s the way I felt reading Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s first novel, Wench.
I read a lot of books—it comes with the territory when they call you Mr. Media. But this novel left me aggravated. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; not at all. There’s nothing wrong with a writer pulling a visceral reaction out of a reader.
The subject matter is what did it to me—Wench is the story of four black slave women living in the mid-1800s, suffering whippings, beatings, rapes, and the outright sale of their children borne of unions with white slave masters—pretty gruesome, hardcore content. It was not a pretty time, of course, and this is not a pretty book.
It should make for an interesting conversation with the author.
DOLEN PERKINS-VALDEZ podcast excerpt: “I did not want to romanticize the period. There is no way to write about slavery without writing about the difficulties slaves endured. At the same time, I didn’t want the book to be a catalog of atrocity.”