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Dolen Perkins-Valdez Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Wench (2009)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Balm (2015)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Take My Hand (2022)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Princess and the Dragon (2022)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a bestselling author who made her debut in 2010 with the release of Wench: A Novel. She is a former finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction.

She earned many other honors during her career. She was a 2009 finalist for the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Award. Dolen also received the First Novelist Award in 2011 for Wench by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. She was also a president’s postdoctoral fellow at the Center for African American Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles and received a DC Commission on the Arts Grant to aid in completion of her second novel.

The author attended Harvard College where she earned her BA degree. She then went to George Washington University where she earned her PhD in English.

In addition to her work as an author, Dolen is the current Chair of the Board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. In her role with the foundation, Perkins-Valdez has visited nearly every public high school in the District of Columbia. She goes to schools to talk about the importance of reading and writing. She works as an Associate Professor in the Literature Department at American University.

On top of her novels, Perkins-Valdez has also written short fiction and essays that have been published in StoryQuarterly, StorySouth, African American Review, The Kenyon Review, and SLI: Studies in Literary Imagination. The author also wrote the introduction to the special edition of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.

Perkins-Valdez was inspired to write her debut novel after she read a biography of W.E.B. Dubois. The book featured a brief reference to the founding of Wilberforce University. The university was based at a former resort called Tawawa House that was named for the springs in the area. The waters there were iron-rich and people at the time believed them to have some medicinal value. The area was popular in the antebellum period and the visitors were Southern white planters and their enslaved mistresses of color. This served as the inspiration for the book Wench. Dolen wrote her book about a young enslaved woman who had a complicated relationship with her master, and the other mistresses she met while at the resort. Wench was a bestselling book and received many positive reviews, including being named as one of NPR’s books to recommend to book clubs. It was also named as a Top Ten Pick of the Month by O, The Oprah Magazine.

Wench is the story of four enslaved women in the years preceding the Civil War. The Tawawa House is a retreat for Southern white men in Ohio. The book takes place prior to the Civil War when Ohio was considered a free territory. The resort is frequented by Southern white men who don’t bring their wives, but instead bring their enslaved Black mistresses. It’s an open secret and done by many at the resort. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are three regulars at the resort and they have built some strong friendships between them over the years. Mawu arrives and she is far more assured and fearless than the others. She shows them a different side of life and talks about running away which changes things for the others. To run would be to leave everything behind, but to escape the bonds that tie them to their masters could set them free.

The second book by Dolen Perkins-Valdez was Balm: A Novel and sees the author return to the Civil War era. The Civil War has ended which has taken Madge, Sadie, and Hemp to Chicago as they search for a new life. Madge was born with magical hands as she is able to discern other people’s suffering. She can help others, but is unable to heal her damaged heart. If she wants to do that and help others who need her then she will need to return home to Tennessee and come face to face with the women healers who once rejected her.

Sadie has a unique ability as well as she can commune with the dead, but she can’t fully engage with her gift until she is able to make peace with her father. Hemp arrives in Chicago in search of his missing family. He sees the opportunity in this city, but knows that he can’t find redemption until he is reunited again with his family. As a divided nation tries to come together once again, the three of them find themselves caught in a battle for survival in a community desperate to put the past to rest.

The third book by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is Take My Hand. The book takes place in Montgomery, Alabama in 1973. Civil Townsend is fresh out of nursing school and wants to make a difference with her education, especially in her community. She takes work at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic where she looks to help women make their own choices and shape their own destinies. Her first week on the job doesn’t quite turn out like that though. Civil ends up going down a country road to a one-room cabin where her new patients are just eleven and thirteen years old.

The girls have never even kissed a boy, but the people handling the family’s welfare benefits believe that them being poor and Black is enough to put them on birth control. Civil ends up taking the family into her heart as struggles with her role. Then one day she heads out to see them and finds out that the unthinkable has happened, and now things will never be the same for any of them.

Decades after the events, Dr. Civil Townsend is ready to retire and her own daughter is all grown. She is ready to retire and find her peace by leaving that past behind, but some stories refuse to be forgotten. Because they must not be forgotten less history repeat itself.

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