“Yes it’s true, it has been optioned!” Those were the exact words from author Dolen Perkins-Valdez in a very brief exchange through Facebook, when I asked her if her compelling debut novel Wench had indeed been optioned for a movie adaptation.
For those of you not familiar with this New York Times bestseller, Wench is a well-researched, beautifully written but heartrending fiction tale of four slave women who befriend at the Tawawa resort in Ohio, a real historic establishment in the 1850’s known for rich plantation owners to bring their enslaved black mistresses in the summers for a “vacation,” in order to carry on with their illicit affairs away from plantation life and their wives.
The main character is Lizzie, a young slave woman who has two children by Drayle, her master. At the resort, she interacts and forms a bond with three other slave women: Mawu, Sweet and Reenie. Conflict arises when one of them plots to escape in the free state, stirring antagonistic emotions in Lizzie, who is tempted to escape but faces the complex dilemma of betraying her loyalty to Drayle, also the only paternal figure in her life, and of leaving her children behind.
Don’t let the romantic and whimsical imagery of the book cover fool you. Having read it about a year and a half ago, Wench is brave, unflinching, and powerful. At times brutal, it will shock you, test your spirit and move you. Upon finishing it, I had trouble falling asleep trying to make sense out of these slave women’s lives and awful predicaments. You are highly encouraged to read it. Buy it on Amazon HERE, and read some of the reviews.
I don’t have anymore information about the option, but when I do, I will denitely give you an update. Although slavery films are controversial and not popular projects (Django Unchained aside); I’m highly interested in an adaptation for this one.
In a tweet dated July 25th of this year, Perkins-Valdez (@Dolen) expressed her desire for actress Nicole Beharie to play the leading role of Lizzie:
“Correction. Follow the REAL Nicole Beharie here: @nikkibeharie. Love her. I hope she has read Wench and wants to play Lizzie.”
I can’t disagree with her; I can see Beharie in the role.
Watch the video below where Dolen talks about how the idea for the novel came about.
Have you read the novel? If you have, would you like to see an adaptation on the screen, big or small? Who would you like to see cast in the main roles?