Genre: Historical Fiction Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: POC
Typically I am the one to recommend books for my mom, but she recently read The Girl at the Back of the Bus by Suzette D. Harrison, and couldn’t stop gushing about it! So, when I saw My Name is Ona Judge by the same author on NetGalley, I quickly requested it!
The book is written from two perspectives, Ona Judge, who lived as a dower slave to Martha Washington, and Tessa, a close family friend of Ona’s descendants. When Tessa accidentally finds Ona’s diary, she gets a glimpse into a life she could never imagine, and learns some life lessons herself.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that it is based off of a true story! Ona Judge Staines was one of Martha Washington’s slaves, and escaped to live in freedom for the rest of her life. Prior to reading this novel, I had never heard of Ona, and I loved that Harrison took the time to share such an important part of history. Hopefully Ona Judge will be a household name like Harrison mentions in the novel.
Additionally, I felt as though Harrison told both Ona’s and Tessa’s stories in such an eloquent way. While there are many books about slavery, I don’t think I’ve ever read one from the perspective of a child, so that truly made this book stand out. Similarly, I thought it was important that the novel addressed significant issues, such as colorism and the belief that slaves working in the house had it easier. Ona’s story dispelled the common belief that all slaves working in the fields had more difficult lives, and encouraged readers to recognize that all slaves faced different types of adversity.
Furthermore, Tessa’s story amplified the power in Ona’s story, but also stood on its own. The fact that Tessa found bravery through reading Ona’s diary was inspiring, and I liked that she did not compare her experience to Ona’s, but was still able to find the wisdom in Ona’s story and her own.
Overall, I will certainly be checking out Suzette D. Harrison’s other books! My Name is Ona Judge was a wonderful novel that speaks on both past and current issues in our society!