The Neighborhood Writing Alliance’s 2012 Every Person Is a Philosopher Annual Benefit is tomorrow! We are so excited! Our featured speaker will be Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of the New York Times Bestseller Wench. For the past month, we’ve been hosting a virtual book club. Each Wednesday has featured a piece from the Journal of Ordinary Thought related to themes in Wench, along with discussion questions for the book. Today we are excited to share our last piece before tomorrow’s event! Make sure to read the book club questions from our first, second, third and fourth weeks, as well as a guest post from Dolen Perkins-Valdez launching the book club. And, if you’re new to NWA, read about who we are here.

christelle evans

Black Africans ripped from the West Coast
Sold for weapons and Peach Schnapps by other Africans

And I Cried

Black female slaves raped by their masters
Black male slaves standing by watching…helpless

And I Cried

Pictures of white people dressed in their finest, having picnics with their children
During the hangings of black men

And I Cried

I stood in the doorway of the Point of No Return on Goreé Island in Senegal,
and El Mina and Cape Coast in Ghana, looking at the ocean, envisioning the
ships carrying them away

And I Cried

Senator Barack Obama won the Iowa Caucus, beating Hilary Clinton—a white
woman in a white state

And I Cried

Senator Barack Obama stood before a crowd of tens of thousands
And a television audience of tens of millions, accepting the Democratic nomination
for the Presidency of the United States of America—the First African American President

I Stood Still
And I Cried

At 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4, 2008, Senator Barack Obama won
the title of President of the United States of America—the First African American President

And I Stood Still


1. The novel ends before the Civil War begins. In what ways does knowing the history of slavery in the United States affect your reading of the novel? How do you think the Civil War would affect each of the characters differently? Why do you think Dolen Perkins-Valdez chose not to go that far forward in time?

2. christelle evans’ poem is in some ways about healing the scars left by the memories and legacy of slavery, as she transitions from crying to standing still. Do you think the country has left behind slavery? In what ways? How much work is left to do?

3. Wench focuses on a very specific moment and kind of slavery, while christelle’s poem looks at the circumstances of slavery broadly. Obviously, reading the two pieces presents a very different literary experience, but in terms of communicating the horrors of slavery, what different experiences and emotions do the two convey. What is gained by the broad perspective that might be lost in the narrow one, and vice versa?

4. Now that you’ve finished the book, and hopefully read along with these questions, what will you take away most from reading Wench? How will Wench impact your understanding of history, slavery, and women?