Skip to main content

Yellow Wife Bets On...

Yellow Wife

February 2021

Sadeqa Johnson’s inspiration for YELLOW WIFE, her first historical novel, began a few years ago when she walked a slave trail in Richmond, Virginia, with her family and some friends. She found herself wondering what had happened as she read the marker notes and saw the site of the jail, and it sent her researching. From there came the story of Pheby Delores Brown, who was born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia. Her life is more pampered than many of the other slaves as her father is the Master. Her yellow skin means that she has privilege. She is now 17, and the Master has promised her mother that she will be freed on her 18th birthday, but from the start you feel there is a slim chance that will happen.

The Master’s wife despises her for what she represents to her --- a dalliance by her husband. So when she has a moment to send Pheby away, she takes it and thrusts her into a very different world.

Pheby is sent to Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond that has a brutal reputation for torturing slaves. There, Pheby, like her mother, is selected by her Jailer for special treatment. She bears his children but is never felt to be safe. She is wistful for a love she had back on the plantation, for a boy whose son she bore. But that child, who she loves dearly, has “no place.” What Pheby does for her family is courageous.

At a time when race is at the forefront of our national conversation, a look back at the roots of slavery and its terrible consequences is handled so well here. It’s a tightly written book, and the spare text speaks volumes. There is so much here for book groups to discuss, and I highly recommend it for a discussion.

Yellow Wife
by Sadeqa Johnson

  • Publication Date: December 28, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1982149116
  • ISBN-13: 9781982149116