Welcome to the Cool Kids Book Club.
I, @kismet4, @MDotWrites and @fortyoneacres (and you, perhaps?) are diving into Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s, Wench. We’ll probably be hashtagging it up (#wench or #dolen) and you may even get some oh so scintillating blog posts out of us here, here and here.
Perkins-Valdez’s short bio reads like the life I wish I was living and still plan to one day…
Dolen has been writing seriously for about thirteen years. She finished her MFA in Creative Writing in ’98 and her thesis she had to write was actually picked up by an agent and went to auction. Unfortunately, the thesis did not sell, but it made her realize one day it could happen to her in a big way.
She went back to school studying for her Ph.D., when she found out she rather liked scholarly research. She accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and continued her research on race riots at the turn of the century. Afterwards, she landed a tenure-track job teaching African American Literature. Throughout those years, however, she continued to write fiction – short stories and two novels that never saw the light of day.
…her name makes my Afro-Latina mouth water and some of my favorite people have endorsed the book. But I’ve been scared to pick it up.
One of the things I want this blog to foster is a deeper meditation on the immediacy of the legacy of Atlantic slavery and slave trading in our twenty-first century lives. It’s what I research and I’m convinced that a true understanding of the ramifications of the not-so-peculiar institution will one day fundamentally change the world (no, for real).
That said, my slavery-as-fiction cocktail is too often mixed with one-part excitement and three-parts cringe reflex. I’ve been burned before–by authors who would like to think they are portraying the experiences of women during slavery in ways that fully affirm and empower all the female characters but end up failing to grapple with the fullness of abuse, assault, and trauma. When this happens, I’m usually left with stories that glide over the extent of the brutality or enter too deeply into it, obscuring the vitality, promise and power within those same women’s lives.
But I’ve got @MDotWrites holding my hand. And the Secret Society Sister Network at my back. So I’m going to jump in. I’ll keep you posted on where the book takes me.