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“Yellow Wife” by Sadeqa Johnson

RFM team members share a book they’ve enjoyed.

The story of Phoebe Dolores Brown was born of Richmond history.

Author Sadeqa Johnson, who had recently relocated to Midlothian with her family, was inspired to write Yellow Wife while walking along the Richmond Slave Trail. 

That’s where Johnson learned about a cruel slave trader and the enslaved woman he called his wife, Mary Lumpkin. After she read that they had five children, Phoebe Dolores Brown, the character the author based on Mary Lumpkin, began to take shape. 

Phoebe’s life as an enslaved woman at the jail, raising her fair-skinned children to pass for white and her dark-skinned child not to be sold away from her, is heart-breaking and complicated. 

Well-crafted and engaging, fans of historical fiction will relish every page of Yellow Wife. As a snapshot from our nation’s brutal history, the book is a painful look at the cost of slavery through the eyes of a smart, resilient, and beautiful woman who had no agency. It’s unsettling to know many parts of this horrific story unfolded in Richmond, not to mention the fact that countless stories just like this one happened all over the South. 

Johnson’s Yellow Wife will be available in paperback in January, just in time to add it to your book club list for 2022.

Read more about Sadeqa Johnson and her first book of historical fiction, Yellow Wife, in this article from Joan Tupponce here.

Enter to win RFM’s book club giveaway here. Winner receives eight copies of Yellow Wife and a 30-mintue Zoom session with the author.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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