The only mention of Jude in Nova Scotia’s official history relates to her death: a slave-owning family was brought to trial for her murder in 1801. They were acquitted despite overwhelming evidence that they were guilty. Sharon Robart-Johnson pays tribute to such archival glimpses of enslaved people by re-creating the fullness of sisters Jude and Diana’s survival, emphasizing their joys alongside their hardship. She stories their movements through the U.S. to Nova Scotia, Canada, with the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists in 1783. As a child, Jude is sold away and then, by a lucky turn of fate, reunited with her fiercely loving family. Jude’s experiences harden her into a rebel who resists injustice without heeding consequences, and after her death, Diana is left alone to deal with racist and sexual violence.
Through Robart-Johnson’s research, we experience nineteenth-century Nova Scotia, when political debates about abolishing slavery were just beginning to emerge. Through Robart-Johnson’s creativity, we enter the historical fiction of Jude and Diana and their strong familial bonds, each character developed with nuance and care. While chronicling the cruelty they endured, Robart-Johnson’s storytelling powerfully honours their humour, strength, and shining dignity.