A Desperate Road to Freedom is a work of fiction written in the style of a young girl's personal journal as she tells the story of her escape, with her family, from a slave farm in Virginia to a homestead in Ontario. Julia May Jackson, with her parents and siblings, flee slavery through the underground railroad to settle into the Owen Sound region. The book is a part of an interesting series, titled 'Dear Canada', put out by Scholastic Canada, of fictional journals written by girls who lived through times of historical trauma in the Canadian and (sometimes) American contexts. Other books in the series are written from the perspective of girls who lived through the internment of Japanese Canadian’s for example, or through the War of 1812. I intend to read the books on the Upper Canada rebellion of 1837 and the Red River Metis rebellion too.
I don’t know about other books in the series but what I admire about this particular entry is that it does not idealize Canadian society or sanitize it of its own racism. The history of slavery and the underground railroad in North America provides an opportunity for Canadians to compare our history with that of the (still) deeply racist US, with the potential for us to view ourselves historically as a nation as having more enlightened attitudes towards race. The diary of Julia May Jackson tells the story of racist brutality and murder in the US, but also of racial prejudice experienced after her family’s escape, in Ontario, where even the friendly folks of the area express their prejudices in subtle but no less upsetting terms.