Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
1. Lizzie is a house slave. How does this position differ from working in the fields? How does this status affect her day-to-day existence? What impact does it have for her children?

2. Unlike many slaves, Lizzie learned to read. Why did Drayle teach her? What does this ability offer her? Does her ability influence the other slaves she lived with?

3. When Mawu asks Lizzie about Drayle, Lizzie hears the question, "Is he good to you?" Later she comes to understand that Mawu wanted to know, "Is he God to you?" How would you answer both questions? How do these questions relate to one another in the context of Lizzie's life?

4. Lizzie claims that she loves Drayle. Does she? Does he love her? How would you describe their bond? Can love truly exist when there is such an imbalance of power between two people? What about Drayle and his wife, Fran? Talk about their marriage and compare it to the relationship between Lizzie and Drayle.

5. How would you describe Drayle? What kind of a slave owner is he? What does Lizzie mean to Drayle? How does he treat her? How does he treat their children? Lizzie begs Drayle to free their son and daughter. Why won't he?

6. Describe the relationship between Drayle's wife, Fran, and Lizzie. How do the women view each other? How are their positions similar?

7. When Drayle receives an offer to sell Phillip he refuses. Why? What eventually makes him change his mind? What does Lizzie think about Phillip's chance at freedom? Why does she refuse to help him when she is first asked—and what changes her mind?

8. Compare and contrast the four women at the heart of the novel: Lizzie, Mawu, Sweet, and Reenie. Though they are all slaves, are their experiences the same? What accounts for any differences?

9. How did Lizzie feel about going to Tawawa? What did the resort offer her that her life in Tennessee did not? How do her experiences at the resort change her over the course of the summers she is there?

10. What was Lizzie's opinion of Mawu when she first met her? Describe the arc of their relationship. What events changed they way they saw each other?

11. Describe the women's white masters. What are their relationships like with their slaves? Do these relationships offer any benefits to the women? Are these women entirely powerless? If not, what power do they have?

12. Why does Lizzie tell Drayle about Mawu's plan to escape? Is she surprised by Mawu's punishment? Why doesn't Mawu hate Lizzie for what she did? When Mawu finally escapes, she stays behind, waiting for Lizzie? Why does she risk herself for Lizzie? What do they all see in Lizzie—why is she special?

More discussion questions