from author’s website

Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, essayist and poet. She has written for and edited several newspapers and magazines in Northern California. Julia has written for Huffington Post, Salon, Paste, Scary Mommy, Thrillist, Redbook, Narratively, Oakland MagazineSan Francisco Chronicle Sunday Insight, and many other publications in print and online. She writes about history, books, and the arts.

Her affinity for family history led her to several foremothers whose stories begged to be told. The Bereaved, forthcoming in August 2023, tells of her third great-grandmother Martha, a poor widow, and the choices she made to survive with four hungry children as the Civil War erupted around her. Forthcoming in Fall 2024, Silence, tells of Julia’s eighth great-grandmother, Silence Greenleaf, who was punished by the Puritan Church in coastal Massachusetts,  1722, and spent a year in silence to fit her name. A third novel, in progress, tells of Julia’s grandmother Ruth Crum, who wanted to be a thoroughly modern city businesswoman in 1920, but the demands of her family’s Montana ranch life and economic downturn brought her plans to a halt. Will she achieve her dream? Ruthless is coming, slated for Fall 2025.

Julia is the author of three novels: Tongues of Angels, Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop, and Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News; two collections of women’s history (I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diary of a Roaring Twenties Teen, and Reaching for the Moon: More Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen), and a volume of poetry, Amaryllis: Collected Poems (Scarlet Letter Press, 2nd ed. 2021).

A bird nerd, apiarist, cat lady, and chaser of stories, Julia lives in the California foothills in an 1800s Victorian that she painstakingly rescued. 

Julia was selected as Poet Laureate for the city of Alameda, California, in 2014-2017. Her short fiction and poetry have been anthologized and published in print and online in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. Julia has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State and a MA in English/Creative Writing from California State University East Bay.


Based on her research into her grandfather’s past as an adopted child, Julia Park Tracey has created a mesmerizing work of historical fiction illuminating the darkest side of the Orphan Train.

In 1859, women have few rights, even to their own children. When her husband dies and her children become wards of a predator, Martha – bereaved and scared – flees their beloved country home taking the children with her to the squalor of New York City. But as a naïve woman alone, preyed on by male employers, she soon finds herself nearly destitute. The Home for the Friendless offers free food, clothing, and schooling to New York’s street kids and Martha secures a place temporarily for her children there. When she returns for them, she discovers that the Society has indentured her two eldest out to work via the Orphan Train, and has placed her two youngest for adoption. The Society refusing to help and with the Civil War erupting around her, Martha sets out to reclaim each of them.

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“…Tracey does a masterful job in this novel, developing Martha as a relatable narrator; readers will find that their spirits rise and fall with hers. For the most part, her life in the city is almost too wrenching to witness. The most painful aspect of the story, wonderfully handled by Tracey, is its depiction of the casual cruelty of the righteous folk who think they should be thanked as they break families apart. This novel is based on members of the author’s own family; baby Homer became William Lozier Gaston, who’s Tracey’s great-great grandfather.

An often painful but uplifting novel by a writer at the top of her game.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In The Bereaved, Julia Park Tracey reopens America’s wounds in prose that is propulsive and resonant. Martha’s struggles are the stuff of classic literature. Theodore Dreiser comes to mind, but so, too, the fine contemporary novels of Jo Baker and Maggie O’Farrell.” —Christian Kiefer, author of Phantoms

“Julia Park Tracey’s The Bereaved is more than the gripping story of a young widow facing desperate choices as she tries to keep her family together. It’s also a study of the rough and unsentimental New York City just before the Civil War, when working mothers had few options and “orphan trains” were relocating city children thousands of miles from their families. Based on the lives of Tracey’s ancestors, The Bereaved is a deeply researched historical narrative as well as a compelling read.” —Esther Crain, author of The Gilded Age in New York and curator of Ephemeral New York (

“Julia Park Tracey’s The Bereaved is a novel that weaves its intimately detailed characters into your soul. At once, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and absolutely beautiful, this is a story that captures the devastation of loss and the power of enduring hope.” —Lauren Hough, author of Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing

“What happens when a mother is left with no choices? In The Bereaved, Julia Park Tracey casts a stark light on an era in which hard work and devotion simply aren’t enough for women trapped in poverty. Vivid, haunting, authentic, and utterly gripping, it’s a beautifully written story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.” —Ellen Meister, author of Farewell, Dorothy Parker and Dorothy Parker Drank Here

“This sumptuous, cinematic book is full of heart and concern for women’s plights in this era and gets to the bottom of the Orphan Train tragedy in a way that seems just as compelling and heartless as from the children’s perspective.” —Erika Mailman, author of The Witch’s Trinity

The Bereaved, a beautifully researched novel by journalist/historian Julia Park Tracey, portrays a courageous woman who suffers similar heart-rending losses to the author’s own. Based also on the struggles her third great-grandmother faced in the American Northeast during the Civil War era, Tracey’s story is gritty, truthful, inspiring, and compassionate. Simply unique.” —Rebecca Lawton, author of Swimming Grand Canyon and Other Poems (2021) and What I Never Told You: Stories (2022)

“Impeccable, poetic writing. The care, respect, and fierce love for her ancestors is evident throughout The Bereaved.” —Eleanor Parker Sapia, A Decent Woman, 2021 International Latino Book Award

“Julia Park Tracey’s work of historical fiction, The Bereaved, is based on the life of her third great-grandmother. Tracey’s meticulous research reveals Martha’s struggles to keep her young family together in such vivid detail that the reader shares her very real fears, her mounting disappointments, and finally, her heart-breaking decisions.” —Nancy Herman, author of All We Left Behind: Virginia Reed and the Donner Party


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