November 18, 2021

My Monticello

My Monticello

by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

Published October 5, 2021
by Henry Holt and Co.

Rating: 3 Stars ⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Short Story Collection


A young woman descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings driven from her neighborhood by a white militia. A university professor studying racism by conducting a secret social experiment on his own son. A single mother desperate to buy her first home even as the world hurtles toward catastrophe. Each fighting to survive in America.

Tough-minded, vulnerable, and brave, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s precisely imagined debut explores burdened inheritances and extraordinary pursuits of belonging. Set in the near future, the eponymous novella, “My Monticello,” tells of a diverse group of Charlottesville neighbors fleeing violent white supremacists. Led by Da’Naisha, a young Black descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, they seek refuge in Jefferson’s historic plantation home in a desperate attempt to outlive the long-foretold racial and environmental unravelling within the nation.

United by these characters’ relentless struggles against reality and fate, My Monticello is a formidable book that bears witness to this country’s legacies and announces the arrival of a wildly original new voice in American fiction.

My Thoughts:

This was a unique and profound collection. Each story was wholly original and unlike anything I had read before.

The short stories that started the collection were quite interesting and moving. I enjoyed some more than others but they each made me think and were well presented. Each story dealt with a different issue such as gender discrimination or poverty but they all had the common theme of racism. Most of the stories actually read like prose and I could envision the words flowing over me at a poetry slam.

My favorite story was the title work – My Monticello. It was significantly longer than the others but also dealt primarily with the issue of race. The story takes place in the not so distant future and presents a world divided. Power has been cut, government has been destroyed, and Black people are being targeted. A group of neighbors flee to Jefferson’s Estate when their homes are targeted and the group try to survive and restore order in the face of evil.

This was a powerful collection. It’s one to be read slowly and each story is to be considered on its own merits. This would be a great collection to read with a group and discuss.

Thank you to Henry Holt and NetGalley for a copy of this work.