Yellow Wife

37 Ink: Atria. Jan. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781982149109. $26. F
In this emotionally wrenching pre–Civil War story, Pheby Delores Brown, born a house slave on a Virginia plantation, is the biracial child (then referred to as “high yellow”) of a proud African mother and fathered by their white owner. Before her mother’s dream for her of freedom and education when she came of age—as promised by her slave-owning father—can be realized, the “spoiled” 16-year-old Pheby becomes a target of the plantation owner’s jealous wife, and is sent to a notorious jail where the enslaved are broken and tortured. She becomes the “yellow wife” of the disreputable white jail owner. Pheby lives in fear of her sadistic husband, and her dreams of freedom and protecting those she loves grow more desperate with the birth of each child, and the passing years.
VERDICT This well-researched and intensely moving fifth novel by Johnson (And Then There Was Me) is perfect for fans of historical fiction with strong female characters such as The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom and Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Book clubs looking for #OwnVoices authors will be powerfully impressed by this story of a lesser-known aspect of the history of slavery in the American South.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing