Puget Sound English Department

September 18, 2009

WENCH: A Novel

Filed under: Creative Writing,Literature,Publishing — O. @ 8:07 pm

dolen(Photo: Dolen Perkins-Valdez)

Wench: A Novel by our colleague Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Assistant Professor English) is set to be published in January by HarperCollins/Amistad books.  Dolen provides the following background about the novel:

“In 1851, a lawyer named Elias P. Drake purchased a plot of land near Xenia, Ohio with the intent to establish a summer vacation resort where the country’s elite could relax and enjoy the mineral springs in the area. At the time, it was believed that natural water could cure illnesses and bring about good health.  What made this resort unusual, however, was that it became a popular vacation destination for southern slaveholders and their enslaved mistresses.  Ultimately, these flagrantly open relationships offended the northern abolitionists who also frequented the resort.  After four years, the resort closed.

This part of the story has been confirmed by historians.  I took this forgotten historical note and sketched in a fictional account of what it would have been like to be an enslaved woman traveling to this free state each summer.  Why wouldn’t the women try to escape? What kinds of emotional attachments did they have with these men?  Initially, I believed that it was entirely possible that they actually loved the men.  Ultimately,  I discovered that it was much more complicated than that. . . .”

For more about the novel, including archival images of the resort (and ways to order the book now), please visit the web site:


Congratulations, Dolen! Well done.


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