When we are young, we have dreams and ideas of where life will take us. Adulthood and reality has a way of bringing us back to Earth.
Sadeqa Johnson‘s new novel, Yellow Wife, was published last month. Set in the 1850’s in Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown is a slave with privileges that few of her class have. Just shy of her 18th birthday, she dreams of marrying her sweetheart and the freedom that has been promised as a birthday present. The dream is shattered when she is forced out of her home.
Taken to a jail in preparation of being sold, her fate is changed when she is chosen by the jail owner. Pheby’s status is murky. She is still a slave. But she is also the lady of the house and the mother of her owner’s children. Known as The Jailer, he can be both kind and barbaric. Pheby knows that if she is survive, she must rely on her wits.
I loved this book. It is enthralling, engaging, and so dam good. There has been a lot of discussion about giving a voice and a spotlight to people who’s history has been either simplified or ignored completely. It would have been easy to just give lip service to this idea. Pheby is smart, brave, and likable, qualities that are sometimes missing in female characters. Especially in women of color. Though her story is set in a specific time period, she is one of those women who is instantly relatable. It is a quality that creates classics and forces readers to reckon with their own prejudices.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.