Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Wench (copy)

Okay, it is finally happening to me! I lay down at night to read but everything is blurry. I was telling my husband, it must be the angle of attack. I see fine sitting upright in a rocking chair.
Myopia is a natural part of aging. I own black glasses that supposedly ward off the need for bifocals. Looking like a Star Trek character, they obscure all vision as I focus through a pattern of pin holes dotting the frames. Fun, but boy do they take loads of concentration to use.
Sometimes, I wish my eyes could blur over violence in books. I am currently reading Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.  The slave beatings and rapes are horrendous. Look the other way, but this is the nice thing about books. It is fiction. It is not real life, or is it.
Perkins-Valdez writes about a fictional resort in the free slave state of Ohio that caters to wealthy landowners. Tawawa House is a sprawling three-story inn with a huge winding staircase and six columns extending the full length of the veranda. On this fancy wooden porch sits five pairs of rocking chairs strategically located between each column.
The 64-acre resort includes a large pond with a slow moving paddle wheel in the middle. Surrounding the pond are cottages for families that provide privacy from the inn. The sulfur springs are located in the woods. The blonde waters are believed to have healing powers.
Set in the 1850s, the intended Northern clientele are less likely to use Tawawa now that slaveholders are bringing their slave mistresses to the remote destination. Yes, you read that correctly. I first thought this premise absurd, but it is based on fact.
Perkins-Valdez was reading a biography of W.E.B. De Bois when a small snippet about Wilberforce University shocked her. It may have read like this passage in David Levering Lewis’ Pulitzer winning book on De Bois.
“Wilberforce had come into being as the sylvan solution to the sins of slaveholding fathers. The place was originally called Tawawa Springs by the Indians, after the heath-giving waters that drew rich planters to summer there in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The rambling 350-room Tawawa Springs, with its arbored fountains and manicured grounds, was perhaps the most unusual resort hotel in America, because its clientele consisted of slave masters, their concubines, and their children.”
I am fascinated by the authors writing skills in Wench, but it is not for the faint of heart or the clearest of eyes.

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