YARMOUTH, NS – An online book launch for Jude and Diana – a historical fiction novel written by Yarmouth writer Sharon Robart-Johnson – will take place on July 7 at 7 p.m.
Fernwood Publishing, in conjunction with the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives, presents the launch, which will include a discussion with Sergeant Craig Marshall Smith, Brenda Francis and Dave Sollows.
In the official history of Nova Scotia, the only mention of Jude concerns his death – a family of slave owners was tried for his murder in 1801. They were acquitted despite the overwhelming evidence of their guilt.
Robart-Johnson pays homage to such archival glimpses of enslaved people by recreating the fullness of Sisters Jude and Diana’s survival in his book, highlighting their joys alongside their struggles. It follows their travels across the United States to Nova Scotia, Canada, with the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists in 1783. As a child, Jude is sold then, by a stroke of fate, regains his fiercely loving family.
Jude’s experiences harden her into a rebel who resists injustice regardless of the consequences, and after her death, Diana is left alone to deal with racist and sexual violence.
While recounting the cruelty they endured, Robart-Johnson’s narrative “powerfully honors their humor, strength and dazzling dignity.”
Robart-Johnson says the seed for her historical fictional novel was planted the day she found the information about Jude’s death and read the court records on the trial from the Nova Scotia Archives in Halifax in 1993 .
“I knew then that at some point I would try to write a novel about what her life might have been like, given that all we know about her is her death and the trial that took place. followed by Major Samuel Andrews, and two of his sons, for his murder, âshe said.
She also wanted to include Diana, who also lived in the household.
“What happened to him after Jude died?” Forced to stay there, was her life better? Its story is completely fictitious. I didn’t write this novel just to tell their stories, it was to tell their stories in their own words. To give them a voice. Something most slaves didn’t have, âshe said.
âThey tell two different stories, but the result is the same,â she adds. âI think Jude and Diana are must read. I think their stories will leave you sad for these two women, mad at what was done to them – especially Jude, because Diana’s story is fictional – and outraged that something like this could and did happen in Yarmouth County. “
Robart-Johnson also has roots in Yarmouth County. She was born in South Yarmouth and is a thirteenth generation Nova Scotian. Its family roots date back to the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755, the arrival of black loyalists in Shelburne in 1783 and a slave brought to Digby County in 1798.
In 2009, she published her first book, Africa’s Children: A History of Blacks in Yarmouth.
To participate in the book launch:
Also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores across Canada soon.