Memphis author's first book gains critical acclaim

By Kym Clark - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Memphis author's first novel is flying off the bookshelves and gaining critical acclaim.  Dr. Dolen Perkins-Valdez was raised in Memphis, a White Station High School graduate with degrees from the University of Memphis and Harvard.
Her first book, Wench, was inspired by a pre-Civil War era resort in Ohio that was popular among slave owners and their slave mistresses.
"I had never heard of this place and I began to dig and try to find out more," she said.
Slave masters would bring their slave mistresses to what the Perkins-Valdez calls the Tawawa Resort to openly have relationships with them, instead of keeping their lives secret, as they would in the southern States.

Researching the resort was not an easy task, because slave women did not leave behind written records.

"I began to think what would it have been like to be a slave woman taken up on a steam boat up to a free state, and taken there for vacation," she said.  Why wouldn't they run? Because they're in this free state that's full of abolitionist activity."
When she couldn't find the answers, she imagined them, creating 290 pages of intriguing historical fiction that follows the lives of four women taken to the Tawawa resort by their masters.
"Wench" is already sparking a dialogue with readers.
"I'm open to any conversation that we have about history, about the history of our families, about relationships between black and white men or black and white women - any interesting conversations that come out of this, I'm open to," Perkins-Valdez said.

Perkins-Valdez was back in Memphis this week for a reading of "Wench" at Rhodes.

She plans to write a second book, but doesn't know yet when that will happen.

To learn more about her, and her book, click here.

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