Sadeqa Johnson in conversation with Jamise Harper
Courtesy of Loyalty Bookstores

We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Loyalty Bookstore Hosts Sadeqa Johnson, Jamise Harper 

For her first foray into historical fiction, novelist Sadeqa Johnson chose to explore the history of the land surrounding her: the suburbs and towns encircling Richmond, Virginia. She walked the Richmond Slave Trail and visited a site of cruelty and malice: the Devil’s Half-Acre—a former slave jail just a few blocks from Virginia’s state capitol. Here, in antebellum Richmond, tread Mary Lumpkin, a Black woman married to the site’s White jailer, Robert, with whom she raised five kids. Based in part on Mary’s life, the protagonist of Yellow Wife, Pheby, finds herself in a drastically different reality from the one she grew up in—having been born the daughter of her plantation’s medicine woman and sponsored by the plantation master’s sister, Pheby sees her dreams for a free future spoiled when she ends up in the Devil’s Half-Acre itself. Johnson’s detail-heavy writing builds an engrossing world around Pheby, who must outwit and outrun the cruel men and ominous expectations of this new, more violent world. Though a strong departure from her previous work—Johnson’s first three novels are contemporary love stories—Yellow Wife explores a different kind of love: the sacrificial urge to protect those close to you and ease their pain in a world built to break you. Joining Johnson in this conversation to promote Yellow Wife’s paperback release will be Jamise Harper, the co-creator of the Diverse Spines book community and effort, which works to elevate literature by Black women and women of color. The book talk will be held digitally, and all donations will go to BLM DC. Sadeqa Johnson’s conversation with Jamise Harper starts at 8 p.m. on Jan. 19, via Crowdcast for Loyalty Bookstores. $1–$20.