Wench

For an intriguing, eye-opening look at the cruelties and complexities of slave-era relationships between slave mistresses and their masters (and among the slave mistresses themselves), take a trip via Dolen Perkins-Valdez’ novel Wench (HarperCollins, 2010) to an Ohio resort that catered to these peculiar couples. Over three summers, four slave women meet during their “vacations” with their masters, share the challenges of their lives, their men, their children and the tension caused by their knowledge that while in Ohio they are in a free state but still the chattel of their masters. Moving stories, lyrically written.

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Happy Camper

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Happy Camper

By Jarret Keene

If you haven’t yet absorbed the music of San Francisco folk-pop artist Brett Dennen, you’re in for a treat. His songs are emotionally nuanced, sonically varied and soulful in a way you rarely find these days. Even if you haven’t engaged any of Dennen’s four albums, chances are you’ve heard him in TV shows House and Scrubs (both of which featured his ballad “Ain’t No Reason”) or in the indie flick According to Greta. His new album, Loverboy, released in April, is his best and most life-affirming, and will appeal to fans of Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson.

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