The Yellow Wife

By Sadeqa Johnson,

Book cover of The Yellow Wife

Book description

A Best Book of the Year by NPR and Christian Science Monitor

Called “wholly engrossing” by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this “fully immersive” (Lisa Wingate, #1 bestselling author of Before We Were Yours) story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked The Yellow Wife as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Though I felt too raw after George Floyd’s death in the summer of 2020 to read about the shattered dreams of an enslaved woman, there was something about Pheby Brown’s story that I found intriguing.

I had spent the last few weeks reading various novels about wives. Enslaved at birth, Pheby is promised her freedom on her 18th birthday but instead is forced to become the mistress to the jailer at a place where slaves are broken, tortured, and sold every day.

I loved how Phebe’s ability to create these beautiful designs with her sewing enabled her to protect her…

This book will break your heart a million ways, but you’ll still want your friends to read it. Phelby Brown is a teenage girl navigating the complicated world of cross-generational slavery. But just when she thinks she’s figured it all out, she’s put up against an especially cruel “Jailer” on the Devil’s Half Acre in Virginia, where the enslaved people are tortured and sold every day. How will she outsmart this dangerous man and turn the tables on this mad, mad world? Readers will be hooked from page one and cheering for Phelby every step of the way (even between…

This book is a tearjerker that left me on the edge of my seat. The harrowing experiences of the protagonist, Pheby Delores Brown, are vivid and you don’t want to stop until you finish. Personally reliving Pheby’s life is one of the reasons why I enjoyed this book so much. The fear is real.

From Sinmisola's list on historical stories on love and slavery.

The Yellow Wife is a story about Pheby Brown, an enslaved woman who is sold to a man named Rubin Labier, who is the owner of a jail known as the Devil’s Half-Acre. There, Pheby becomes Rubin’s mistress, and certain expectations, along with limitations, are forced upon her. While Pheby is presented as Rubin’s “wife” and their children are legitimized by his acknowledgment of them, Pheby is far from free. She is very much at the mercy of Rubin and his world. But Pheby is strong and determined. And I delight in how she fights for freedom for herself…

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