Saturday, December 11, 2010
W E N C H BY DOLENS-PERKINS VALDEZ
This is the time in which DOLEN PERKINS-VALDEZ'S WENCH takes place. It is a time of doubt, of fear and juxtaposed beside it all is the power of faith, hope and love. The women, Lizzie, Reena, Sweet, Mawu and Glory are taken by their masters to Tawawa, a vacation home in Ohio. It is a place where the women can almost reach out and touch freedom. Of course when they reach, the delicate woven web of independence, beauty and rest slips away like a silk slip that is too good for them to ever wear. "...perhaps whites did not understand how it felt not to be able to go where one wanted to go, dress how one wanted to dress. They took simple things like movement for granted." Although they were living in a summer vacation hotel no one must make the mistake that they were there to look pretty, sit pretty and blend in with the wives of slave owners. Fran is the wife of Drayle. Drayle shares a forbidden love with his mistress slave and mother of his children, Lizzie. This is the way Lizzie spends her days of vacation. "Lizzie washed and ironed the clothes, scrubbed the floors, dusted the wood, beat the rugs. While she cleaned, Fran sat in the highback armchair....."
I know some mothers and grandmothers have worked this hard throughout history. However, how many women worked the next day after their child or children were sold away, far away to an unidentified location? This is the type of pain I call unbearable to bare with dignity. If my children were stolen away, I could not lift my head up or my feet to walk another day. How in the world did these women do it? I would say through fervent prayer and strong friendships. These women held their friendships to their bosom like they would hold their breastfeeding babies."They walked back to the resort, four shadowed figures holding in yet another secret on only their third day back in Ohio that summer."dolenperkinsvaldez
American society during this time was so complex. I tend to think it was almost like the caste system in India. However, Dolen Perkins-Valdez is able to deal with the American society of the Nineteenth century. Her focused eye turns like windmill blowing in the wind. Really, it was not a good time for any woman. Thankfully, W E N CH left me hopeful and not hopeless. Each separated letter in the word "wench" reminds me of a woman I met in the novel. These women stood tall and sturdy like capital letters. In a personal way, each woman grows and becomes different. These women are never broken to lie dead but to rise again with or without a tip of a finger.
"She was more than eyes, ears, lips, and thigh. She was a heart. She was a mind." After reading this book, I think the spirit of one or more of these women lives in Dolen Perkins-Valdez. She has been able to reach down deep in her writing and not come up with a weed, but with a rose that will never die. Thank you to the author for taking the time to write this story in a unique and memorable way. It is truly a great novel.