Sadeqa Johnson is the international best-selling and award-winning author of four novels. Her most recent, Yellow Wife, follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia. Inspired by a true story, Yellow Wife depicts “the physical, psychological, and spiritual damages wrought by slavery” (Kirkus, Starred Review) and determination in the face of oppression. Johnson’s moving book resonates with audiences as we still grapple with issues of race today, and has been named a “Most Anticipated Historical Fiction Book of 2021,” by O, The Oprah Magazine and SheReads, as well as a “Books We Love” pick by PARADE and BuzzFeed. Yellow Wife joins the canon of bestselling fiction including Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, and Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.
Johnson’s debut novel, Love in a Carry-on Bag, was the recipient of the 2013 Phillis Wheatley award for best fiction, OOSA best book award, and USA best book award for African-American fiction. Second House From the Corner, was hailed by Essence magazine and a Go on Girl! Bookclub selection for 2017. And Then There Was Me, won the National Book Club Conference fiction book of the year award, and was a finalist for the Phillis Wheatley award. Johnson also received the Black Pearl Magazine Author of the Year award in 2017.
Offering ample space for discussion, Johnson’s novels are frequent book club selections. She is widely requested to speak at schools, conferences, historical organizations, and more, discussing the historical significance of her stories, writing, research, and personal journey. A former public relations manager, Johnson spent several years working with well-known authors such as JK Rowling, Bebe Moore Campbell, Amy Tan, and Bishop TD Jakes. After years of unsuccessfully getting her own publishing deal, Johnson took matters into her own hands and started a small press with her husband, where she published her debut novel. A motivational and inspirational speaker, she discusses how to be your own best advocate, and why never giving up is quintessential to success.
Johnson is a Kimbilo Fellow, former board member of the James River Writers, and proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She also teaches fiction writing for the MFA program at Drexel University. Originally from Philadelphia, she currently lives near Richmond, Virginia with her husband and three children.
- Writing Yellow Wife:
In this lecture, Johnson will recount being called to move from New Jersey to Virginia, and ultimately being led to the Richmond slave trail where she discovered the story of Mary Lumpkin, a mullato enslaved woman forced to barter love for survival while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia, The Devil’s Half Acre. Johnson speaks honestly about the complexities of writing about our darkest period in American history, the research that went into crafting the novel, and what she hopes readers will be inspired to do differently as a result.
- Behind the Books:
In this lecture, Johnson will talk about her journey in the publishing industry where she started as a publicist and then became an author herself. After knocking on the doors of the big publishing houses where she received a resounding no, she finally listened to her gut and took what she learned to start her own publishing company. Johnson speaks candidly about the ups and downs of writing contemporary fiction, and the moment she was called to switch genres and bring to light voices that have been blotted from history.
Praise for Sadeqa Johnson
Sadeqa was a wonderful speaker. She engaged high school students and adults alike with her conversational presentation. There were long lines for books signings at both events and Sadeqa was gracious with her time, speaking with each person. Audience members were texting and emailing before even leaving the venue to be sure we knew how much they had enjoyed the presentation…”
– Findlay-Hancock County Public Library
Praise for Yellow Wife
Seldom do I get to enjoy a novel so wholly engrossing, so exquisitely researched, so timely. Sadeqa Johnson has brought a fresh telling to a story we think we already know, making it beautifully relatable and human. Riveting and suspenseful, I highly recommend this novel.”
– Kathleen Grissom New York Times best-selling author of Glory Over Everything and The Kitchen House
A challenging read but beautifully told… Yellow Wife doesn’t pull any punches in telling its story about this painful period in American history. However, with a central character who is more than up to the task, this thought-provoking, well-paced tale brims with heart and intelligence.”
As Americans continue to deal with issues of race today, Yellow Wife is the perfect book to help the country see, in part, how it got here.”
– Christian Science Monitor
Yellow Wife is a heartbreaking stunner of a book. Johnson deftly creates a cast of characters based on real historical figures and events that transport the reader to the horrors of the slave trade of the pre-war South. Exquisitely researched and richly crafted. I was utterly riveted.”
– Aimie K. Runyan, internationally bestselling author of Daughters of the Night Sky and Across the Winding River
A fully immersive, intricately crafted story inspired by the pages of history. In Pheby, Sadeqa Johnson has created a woman whose struggle to survive and to protect the ones she loves will have readers turning the pages as fast as their fingers can fly. Simply enthralling.”
– Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends.
Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson is a page-turner of a novel that is utterly transporting. Johnson’s rich historical detail and enchanting prose sucked me into another world from the very first page. The book is a reminder that the inner lives of black women are as complicated as they are fascinating and make for some of the most affecting literature in American history. I loved it.”
– Attica Locke, author of Bluebird, Bluebird
Johnson is unsparing in her depiction of the physical, psychological, and spiritual damages wrought by slavery and realistic in her portrayal of the heroism of Pheby and others in resisting it — they cannot change the world, but they do what they can, and sometimes that’s extraordinary… [an] ultimately moving story anchored by a complex narrator.”
– Kirkus, Starred Review
This well-researched and intensely moving [novel]…is perfect for fans of historical fiction with strong female characters such as The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom and Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Book clubs looking for #OwnVoices authors will be powerfully impressed by this story of a lesser-known aspect of the history of slavery in the American South.”
– Library Journal, Starred Review
Johnson achieves a powerful, unflinching account of determination in the face of oppression.”
– Publishers Weekly
[A]n absorbing story. A deeply researched and truly transfixing narrative told with heart, soul and skill — one that will no doubt grip the reader as much as it did the author.”
– Toronto Star
Johnson writes with imagery so vivid that it’s impossible to look away, even during gut-wrenching moments. Readers will be engulfed in captivating suspense…”
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