My Name is Ona Judge by Suzette D. Harrison
Book Review - Blog Tour

Publication Date: September 6, 2022
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: ebook, print and audio
Genre: Historical Fiction


New Hampshire, 1796. “My name is Ona Judge, and I escaped from the household of the President of the United States. I was the favored maid of George and Martha Washington, but they deemed me a slave and thought me property, and I hear ten dollars is offered as reward for my capture. Now I must write the truth that I have lived, and tell my story…”

Chincoteague, Virginia, present day. Rain soaks Tessa Scott as she runs from her car to the old, vine-covered property she has been called to survey. She’s too busy to accept a new job, but doing this favor for the grandmother of her childhood sweetheart delays a painful decision she must make about a future with her controlling boyfriend.

But when Tessa finds a tattered journal carefully hidden inside the house’s ancient fireplace, the tragic story of how Ona was ripped from her mother’s arms to live and work in the palatial Mount Vernon, and the heart-shattering betrayal that led her to risk her life and run, has Tessa spellbound. Could discovering this forgotten scandal at the heart of her nation’s history force her to confront her own story? As she races to reach the final page, will anything prepare her for the desperate moment when Ona’s captors find her again? Will it inspire Tessa to take ownership of her own life and set herself free?

A completely heartbreaking tale of love, loss and redemption, based on an astonishing true story from the founding of America. Perfect for fans of Before We Were Yours, Marie Benedict and America’s First Daughter.

My Thoughts

In her latest release, Suzette D. Harrison, through a dual time narrative and part fictional biography, tells the story of Ona Judge, a slave owned by Martha Washington, the wife of the first President of the United States of America.

We first meet Ona Judge as a ten year old being taught the skills of a seamstress by her mother. Ona is happy in the knowledge that as dower slaves she and her family will not be separated, sold off the plantation at any time like those slaves owned by George Washington. The dower slaves form part of the inheritance of Martha Washington's grandchildren.

However, Ona is separated from her loving family when she is assigned to the mansion, initially as the live-in playmate and servant to one of Martha Washington's granddaughters. Her talent with a sewing needle comes to the attention of Martha Washington and eventually Ona becomes Martha Washington's personal maid. When Washington is elected President and the household spends time between the plantation and New York, and later Philadelphia, Ona is separated from her family again.

As she grows older, Ona becomes aware of the hierarchy amongst the slaves themselves and how variations in skin colour make a difference to how they are treated. Those lightest in colour are tolerated around the Washington family and their visitors, while those darker are relegated to other jobs around the mansion or sent out to the fields. Ona is also aware of the hypocrisy of the Washingtons, especially in relation to the document Washington signed declaring all are created equal.

She witnesses the cruel punishment meted out to recaptured runaway slaves and, despite this, when she overhears a conversation in which her fate is being decided, Ona makes the brave decision to flee the Washington household.

This is a very thought provoking story of a woman who actually lived and dared to defy the President of the United States. I had not heard of Ona Judge before, but it is a name I will not forget. Her story is an emotional one that exposes the inhumanity slaves suffered and the courage required to make that all important bid for freedom.

While the modern thread of the novel was enjoyable and adroitly woven into Ona's story, highlighting similarities between the two women and certain aspects of their lives, I connected more with Ona. The impact of her story was all the greater for my having resisted the urge to research her life before reading this book.

My Name is Ona Judge is an amazing novel and one I'm happy to recommend.

Meet the Author

Suzette D. Harrison, a native Californian and the middle of three daughters, grew up in a home where reading was required, not requested. Her literary "career" began in junior high school with the publishing of her poetry. While Suzette pays homage to Alex Haley, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison as legends who inspired her creativity, it was Dr. Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that unleashed her writing. The award-winning author of Taffy is a wife and mother of two teens, and she holds a culinary degree in pastry and baking. Mrs. Harrison is currently cooking up her next between batches of cupcakes.

Connect with Suzette: Website : Facebook : Instagram : Twitter

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  1. This sounds like a really interesting and important read.

    Thanks for sharing this review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge