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A New York Times Notable Book (2021) A Virginia Living Favorite Book (2021) A Washington Post Notable Fiction (2021) A New York Public Library Best Book for Adults (2021) 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 New York Times Notable Book (2021) A Virginia Living Favorite Book (2021) A Washington Post Notable Fiction (2021) A New York Public Library Best Book for Adults (2021) 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. In “Control Negro,” hailed by Roxane Gay as “one hell of story,” a university professor devotes himself to the study of racism and the development of ACMs (average American Caucasian males) by clinically observing his own son from birth in order to “painstakingly mark the route of this Black child too, one whom I could prove was so strikingly decent and true that America could not find fault in him unless we as a nation had projected it there.” Johnson’s characters all seek out home as a place and an internal state, whether in the form of a Nigerian widower who immigrates to a meager existence in the city of Alexandria, finding himself adrift; a young mixed-race woman who adopts a new tongue and name to escape the landscapes of rural Virginia and her family; or a single mother who seeks salvation through “Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse.” 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.


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A New York Times Notable Book (2021) A Virginia Living Favorite Book (2021) A Washington Post Notable Fiction (2021) A New York Public Library Best Book for Adults (2021) 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 New York Times Notable Book (2021) A Virginia Living Favorite Book (2021) A Washington Post Notable Fiction (2021) A New York Public Library Best Book for Adults (2021) 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. In “Control Negro,” hailed by Roxane Gay as “one hell of story,” a university professor devotes himself to the study of racism and the development of ACMs (average American Caucasian males) by clinically observing his own son from birth in order to “painstakingly mark the route of this Black child too, one whom I could prove was so strikingly decent and true that America could not find fault in him unless we as a nation had projected it there.” Johnson’s characters all seek out home as a place and an internal state, whether in the form of a Nigerian widower who immigrates to a meager existence in the city of Alexandria, finding himself adrift; a young mixed-race woman who adopts a new tongue and name to escape the landscapes of rural Virginia and her family; or a single mother who seeks salvation through “Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse.” 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.

30 review for My Monticello

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roxane

    It is a rare breed of writer who can tell any kind of story and do so with exquisite deftness. Jocelyn Nicole Johnson is one such writer. Her debut collection, My Monticello, is comprised of six stories of astonishing range and each one explores what it means to live in a world that is at once home and not. She dissects the unbearable burdens of such displacement. The crowning glory of this collection is the title story, a novella about a world that has fallen apart and a small band of people wh It is a rare breed of writer who can tell any kind of story and do so with exquisite deftness. Jocelyn Nicole Johnson is one such writer. Her debut collection, My Monticello, is comprised of six stories of astonishing range and each one explores what it means to live in a world that is at once home and not. She dissects the unbearable burdens of such displacement. The crowning glory of this collection is the title story, a novella about a world that has fallen apart and a small band of people who take refuge in Monticello, among the old ghosts of the former plantation, how they become family, and how they try to make a stand for their lives, for the world the way it once was. This collection is absolutely unforgettable and Johnson's prose soars to remarkable heights.

  2. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    What brave writing--for its willingness to seek the perfect form and the perfect word with which to tell these stories, even if it means telling the story in a non-standard way. Roxane Gay has already championed the amazing first story in the collection, "Control Negro," but personally I loved "Virginia is Not Your Home" best in the collection. It's a short story that spans a lifetime, and makes so many exquisite observations along the way, and it persuaded me to care fiercely about what happens What brave writing--for its willingness to seek the perfect form and the perfect word with which to tell these stories, even if it means telling the story in a non-standard way. Roxane Gay has already championed the amazing first story in the collection, "Control Negro," but personally I loved "Virginia is Not Your Home" best in the collection. It's a short story that spans a lifetime, and makes so many exquisite observations along the way, and it persuaded me to care fiercely about what happens to a fictional character. That's something that rarely happens to me, in that I'm often caught up in an appreciation of craft, where I'm reading at a "how does this work" level. The title novella blew me away as well, for its too-true observations about the shock, and the after-shock, of racial violence on a place and its people. Johnson sets the story in historic Monticello, with all of its tangled implications and historicity, and in this way it reminded me of Hardy's masterful use of Stonehenge in the part-mythic/part-vividly-real ending of Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook….read by a full cast …..7 hours and 36 minutes The audiobook theatrics were outstanding…with narrative that held my attention easily. Racism is in every story. Other issues are explored…. poverty, gender discrimination, white supremacy, violence, family expectations & dreams, etc. My two favorite stories were ‘Control Negro’ - and the last, longest, novella…the title story: ‘My Monticello’. These stories were bold, wry, and intimate— They plunge fearlessly into the struggles of being bl Audiobook….read by a full cast …..7 hours and 36 minutes The audiobook theatrics were outstanding…with narrative that held my attention easily. Racism is in every story. Other issues are explored…. poverty, gender discrimination, white supremacy, violence, family expectations & dreams, etc. My two favorite stories were ‘Control Negro’ - and the last, longest, novella…the title story: ‘My Monticello’. These stories were bold, wry, and intimate— They plunge fearlessly into the struggles of being black today, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s (really gifted), debut collection of stories are honest, direct….and so very strikingly observant.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    This is a collection of 5 unrelated short stories and a novella. While I liked all of them, I thought the standout was the first, “Control Negro” a sharp satire that made me cry. Written in the form of a letter from a Black college professor to his son, this story describes the father’s efforts to invisibly direct the development of his son to see whether a flawless Black boy could ever be treated in this society like average American Caucasian males. “What does it matter how much I achieve, or This is a collection of 5 unrelated short stories and a novella. While I liked all of them, I thought the standout was the first, “Control Negro” a sharp satire that made me cry. Written in the form of a letter from a Black college professor to his son, this story describes the father’s efforts to invisibly direct the development of his son to see whether a flawless Black boy could ever be treated in this society like average American Caucasian males. “What does it matter how much I achieve, or how clearly I speak, or how carefully I conduct myself, if the brutal misjudgments remain regardless?” “I saw you, son, turning and wild — free, even — for a moment at least.” In the audiobook, this story was narrated by LeVar Burton. He was wonderful and really should be getting more acting jobs or at least narrating more. I also liked “Virginia is Not Your Home”, narrated by January LaVoy. In rapid glimpses, this traces the life of the protagonist who is trying to escape her heritage. “You’ll look hard and wonder how the time passed so swiftly, how your mark on the world remains so shallow.” The novella is “My Monticello”. Following the Upheaval, a sketchily described conflagration of environmental disasters and civil unrest, marauding bands of armed White Supremacists are violently attempting to clear the country of what they view as trash. A group of neighbors flee to Monticello and hide out there for a few weeks. Two of them are descendants of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings (who was also his wife’s sister, but that’s another story). “I kept real life in one place, and the imagined life of my ancestors in another unexamined place, like a room with no windows. Now my real life flailed and smoked behind me.” I thought that this novella sort of hammered you over the head with its point and felt repetitive. It would have benefited either by being more succinct like the short stories or expanding to add more background to the Unraveling. However, I would definitely read this author again. 4.5 stars I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ceecee

    Monticello is a Palladian mansion in Charlottesville, Virginia, the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson who is estimated to have had about 130 slaves there. This includes Sally Hemings, a biracial slave who bears him six children which is proven by DNA. This novella is narrated by Da’Naisha Hemings Love and tells of a shocking dystopian world set at some time in the future. Da’Naisha and her grandmother MaViolet and a racially mixed group of residents of First Street are driven from their hom Monticello is a Palladian mansion in Charlottesville, Virginia, the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson who is estimated to have had about 130 slaves there. This includes Sally Hemings, a biracial slave who bears him six children which is proven by DNA. This novella is narrated by Da’Naisha Hemings Love and tells of a shocking dystopian world set at some time in the future. Da’Naisha and her grandmother MaViolet and a racially mixed group of residents of First Street are driven from their homes by a machine gun toting group of white suprematists. Along with Da’Naisha’s white boyfriend Knox, they flee, fearing for their lives and eventually seek shelter and safety at Monticello. This tells the story of their nineteen days there. First of all, what a powerful yet also very poignant debut which not only makes you think but also feel something deep inside. We witness the tension and unravelling of the group caused by their fear, pain and panic and then how they come together as one in a bid for survival. Whilst it’s a deeply disturbing story, it’s also a story of love, in particular of Da’Naisha and MaViolet but also between Naisha and Knox, black and white love in the midst of a world going up in flames. To set the novel in Monticello is a symbolic master stroke, for what it represents and stands for in the world of Then of Jefferson and what is unfolding in the Now. The descriptions of the house and how they utilise it in their quest is vividly done as they plot and plan to outwit those hell bent on their destruction The unfolding story strikes deep into your soul as it should, it’s horrifying heart in your mouth reading and extremely unsettling and is written very movingly. The end is terrific, terrifying and mind blowing. What a superb debut which chimes a warning bell for us all. With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Random House UK, Vintage, Harvill Secker for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review. 4-5 stars 4

  6. 5 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | “I remember looking out at all those people, most of whom I'd seen or known over months or years—several of whom I loved. Everybody was yelling or cowering or sneering, angry or afraid.” My Monticello is a suspenseful novella that presents us with a scarily imaginable scenario (given all the alt-right & neo-nazi rallies that have happened in the last couple of years & the Capitol assault) where a group of violent white supremacists engulf Charlottesville. Our nar | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | “I remember looking out at all those people, most of whom I'd seen or known over months or years—several of whom I loved. Everybody was yelling or cowering or sneering, angry or afraid.” My Monticello is a suspenseful novella that presents us with a scarily imaginable scenario (given all the alt-right & neo-nazi rallies that have happened in the last couple of years & the Capitol assault) where a group of violent white supremacists engulf Charlottesville. Our narrator, Da'Naisha Love, escapes the violence and finds a momentary refugee in Monticello, which happens to be Thomas Jefferson's historic plantation. Alongside her are strangers, her white boyfriend, her elderly grandmother, and other people from her neighbourhood. Over the course of nineteen days, this cobbled group tries to carry on. Their fear is palpable, and more than once they find themselves faced with possible threats from the outside. Tensions run high and various members within the group inevitably find themselves disagreeing over what to do. Da'Naisha also happens to be a descendant of Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and her ancestry makes her view Monticello through a very specific lens. Throughout the course of the novella, Da'Naisha also reflects on racism in America, slavery, white supremacy, and interracial relationship. Also, that this group has found refuge from white supremacists in a former plantation adds further complexity to their circumstances. “But mostly I knew my lineage the way most families know theirs: I knew because Momma told me, because MaViolet told her.” While I appreciated Da'Naisha’s piercing commentary, I did find her, and every other character, to be very paper-thin. So much so that they didn’t really strike me as characters but names on a page. The narrative is not particularly concerned or interested in fleshing them out but in addressing issues related to race and American history. Which, as I said above, I did find compelling, however, at heart, I am drawn to character-driven stories, and in this regard, this novella just wasn’t it. There is also some attempt at drama involving Da'Naisha, her bf, and the man she, unbeknownst to him, cheated on him with (who of course happens to be there as well). Lastly, the lack of quotation marks...ugh. It just put me off reading, to be honest. This stylistic choice didn't seem particularly necessary/fitting for this kind of novella. While I wasn’t blown away by My Monticello, I am curious to read this author’s other stories (which were sadly not included in my arc copy) and I would probably still recommend this to other readers. ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    This is a powerful indictment of present-day America and its racial politics, and Johnson imbues it with passion and fire. All the same, for such a short piece, a long short story or novella, there are places where the pacing falls apart and could do with some editorial tightening. The sort of love triangle feels particularly unsubtle and YA, though it's clear to see where the book wanted to go with it. What I liked best is the figurative use of Monticello, the house belonging to Jefferson and w This is a powerful indictment of present-day America and its racial politics, and Johnson imbues it with passion and fire. All the same, for such a short piece, a long short story or novella, there are places where the pacing falls apart and could do with some editorial tightening. The sort of love triangle feels particularly unsubtle and YA, though it's clear to see where the book wanted to go with it. What I liked best is the figurative use of Monticello, the house belonging to Jefferson and where he both kept slaves and impregnated one (or more? my knowledge of US history is shaky) whose descendants are at the heart of the book. The disputed nature of American history, who 'owns' Monticello and who are its descendants are where the interests and weight of this lay for me. And wow - that incendiary ending! Thanks to the publisher for an ARC via NetGalley

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Much has been written about the horrifying impact of toxic tRumpism and its unleashing of buried racist hatreds, but never so potently. That's all I can say about these stories, each of which left me bereft. Much has been written about the horrifying impact of toxic tRumpism and its unleashing of buried racist hatreds, but never so potently. That's all I can say about these stories, each of which left me bereft.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    For me a short story lives or dies on its plot, this either catches me or the story simply passes me by. On the other hand I enjoy novels the most when strong character development meets great dialogue – a good plot helps, but I can live without it. So where does a novella sit? Well, I think it needs an element of both, and that’s tricky one to pull off. Set in Virginia, it starts with a community of black people being evicted from their homes by a violent group of white supremacists. They are ch For me a short story lives or dies on its plot, this either catches me or the story simply passes me by. On the other hand I enjoy novels the most when strong character development meets great dialogue – a good plot helps, but I can live without it. So where does a novella sit? Well, I think it needs an element of both, and that’s tricky one to pull off. Set in Virginia, it starts with a community of black people being evicted from their homes by a violent group of white supremacists. They are chased out of town and forced to gather together in the former home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. Will they be safe here? They’re not sure but it increasingly looks like they’re going to have to defend their position against an overwhelming opposing force. The state has some history with race divide and the Unite the Right rally, which took place in Charlottesville in 2017, might have provided some stimulus for this tale. The action here takes place in the near future, a time in which storms have created enough chaos for social breakdown to occur (global warming is hinted at as the cause). And it’s all energy at the outset as we are introduced a significant number of characters. We see the story unfold through the eyes of Da’Naisha a young university student who is a descendent of Jefferson’s (through his relationship with a biracial woman slave called Sally Hemings). But after the drama of opening scene the pace slows significantly until, belatedly, there’s a rapid build-up to a crescendo finish. So what to make of this one? The history is interesting and it pushed me to undertake some background research in order to flesh out which elements here are factual – the answer being quite a few. But my major grumble is that there were just too many people who I met only infrequently in these pages. Consequently, I found it hard to empathise with the plight of most of them. Well, that’s not quite true, I did collectively but not individually and for me that's not quite enough. This story definitely has its merits and I learned a lot through reading it, but as a piece of entertainment (selfishly my principal goal in reading this one) it didn’t quite knit together for me. After a hectic beginning it's slow to develop and though I was eventually moved by what took place it took a long time for me to reach this level of engagement. Da’Naisha is the character who is designed to draw the reader in and this did work, but dialogue is strangely absent for much of the story and when it is present it consists mainly of one-liners and the odd casual comment. Therefore, I can only award this one three stars, though I predict I might be an outlier in rating this one so modestly. Note: I read a copy of this novella alone, though it will be issued as apart of a collection of the author's stories under the same title. My thanks to Random House UK, Vintage and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    If you buy one book in October, it should be this one. MY MONTICELLO is a collection of short stories and a novella that explore race, identity, and more. Beautifully written, nuanced, and insightful, they each make you think. My introverted self found myself wishing for a book club so I could discuss these stories with others. The eponymous novella is set in Virginia, where I live, and features a group of townspeople who must flee to Monticello after racial attacks and climate change. I wish I c If you buy one book in October, it should be this one. MY MONTICELLO is a collection of short stories and a novella that explore race, identity, and more. Beautifully written, nuanced, and insightful, they each make you think. My introverted self found myself wishing for a book club so I could discuss these stories with others. The eponymous novella is set in Virginia, where I live, and features a group of townspeople who must flee to Monticello after racial attacks and climate change. I wish I could describe how unsettling and good it is, but you just need to read it. It’s already been optioned for Netflix, which is awesome. I cannot stop thinking about this book, and I also cannot recommend it enough. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway -- thank you to Goodreads and Henry Holt for my copy. Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ PaperBackSwap ~ Smashbomb

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    The audio for My Monticello is absolutely incredible. I don't normally read a short story collection, but when I heard that this book had been given the stamp of approval by so many reviewers that I respect, I knew that I had to read this one. I will never give this book enough justice, but it so powerfully speaks to race in America. I can't recommend it enough. The audio for My Monticello is absolutely incredible. I don't normally read a short story collection, but when I heard that this book had been given the stamp of approval by so many reviewers that I respect, I knew that I had to read this one. I will never give this book enough justice, but it so powerfully speaks to race in America. I can't recommend it enough.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Celia

    I rarely read the blurb for a book, so at first was confused. I thought it was a historical fiction novel. WRONG. It is 5 short stories and a novella and the time period is NOW. NOW with all the racial problems we are beginning to recognize as endemic in the US. Let me emphasize that I am painfully aware of the cultural problems in the US. However, I cannot rate this book and its stories highly. I just did not appreciate the writing style which in the first two stories were written in a kind of I rarely read the blurb for a book, so at first was confused. I thought it was a historical fiction novel. WRONG. It is 5 short stories and a novella and the time period is NOW. NOW with all the racial problems we are beginning to recognize as endemic in the US. Let me emphasize that I am painfully aware of the cultural problems in the US. However, I cannot rate this book and its stories highly. I just did not appreciate the writing style which in the first two stories were written in a kind of letter format. Especially in the second story, it seemed like scolding. There are 5 short stories in this book take up 28% of the content. SS1: Control Negro (15 pages) A Father uses his illegitimate son in a racial experiment. 3 stars because it is thought provoking SS2: Virginia Is Not Your Home (11 pages) Someone seems to be chiding a woman as she grows through childhood to old age. Not really sure what the message is. 1 star SS4: Buying a House Ahead of the Apocolypse (6 pages) Just a bunch of bullet points. 1 star SS5: The King of Xandria (16 pages) A proud man from Nigeria cannot understand why the Virginia teachers think his son less than perfect. 4 stars Novella: My Monticello (179 pages) Their neighborhood is on fire. They take refuge in Monticello, the historical home of Da' Naisha's ancestors, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. 3.5 Stars Having given you my opinion, I DO want you to know that the likes of Roxanne Gay, Colson Whitehead and Charles Yu have praised this book to the skies. So don't listen to me; see for yourself. 3 stars

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paris (parisperusing)

    Jocelyn Nicole Johnson occupies a rare, curious gift for mutating a parallel world, one haunted by calamity. This is a flawless, unputdownable body of work that instantly calls to mind the perfection I witnessed in “The Office of Historical Corrections” by Danielle Evans. Conjuring elements of escapism, dystopia, and racial disorder, my gosh, “My Monticello” shook me to my core. With every pass of the hand, Johnson leaves a trace of blood and gold in her wake; this is the best collection of fict Jocelyn Nicole Johnson occupies a rare, curious gift for mutating a parallel world, one haunted by calamity. This is a flawless, unputdownable body of work that instantly calls to mind the perfection I witnessed in “The Office of Historical Corrections” by Danielle Evans. Conjuring elements of escapism, dystopia, and racial disorder, my gosh, “My Monticello” shook me to my core. With every pass of the hand, Johnson leaves a trace of blood and gold in her wake; this is the best collection of fiction this year bar none.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows)

    This review is going to be super short because all you need to know is that YOU NEED TO READ THIS. The audiobook is outstanding with the various narrators that pull you straight in to each and every story that is told. Beautifully told prose that tackles the very serious subject of racism - I could feel the emotions thoroughly. If there's one book you need to add to your TBR, this is definitely it. This review is going to be super short because all you need to know is that YOU NEED TO READ THIS. The audiobook is outstanding with the various narrators that pull you straight in to each and every story that is told. Beautifully told prose that tackles the very serious subject of racism - I could feel the emotions thoroughly. If there's one book you need to add to your TBR, this is definitely it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    My Monticello is absolutely breathtaking. Jocelyn Nicole Johnson truly has a gift for writing. Each story has a different voice, is rich with meaning, and just beautifully, beautifully done. Definitely one of my favorite reads of 2021, and I look forward to seeing more from this author. I can't wait for the release date to get closer and see what actual reviewers say about it! This book is just stunning. My Monticello is absolutely breathtaking. Jocelyn Nicole Johnson truly has a gift for writing. Each story has a different voice, is rich with meaning, and just beautifully, beautifully done. Definitely one of my favorite reads of 2021, and I look forward to seeing more from this author. I can't wait for the release date to get closer and see what actual reviewers say about it! This book is just stunning.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    'My Monticello' by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson is a gift to the nation. I put off writing a review well after I finished listening to the audiobook because I wanted to make sure I did my best to give it the justice it so mightily deserves. As a Virginia resident who has visited Monticello several times, I was especially fascinated with the title novella which centers around a University of Virginia student named Da'Naisha, who also happens to be from the lineage of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings 'My Monticello' by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson is a gift to the nation. I put off writing a review well after I finished listening to the audiobook because I wanted to make sure I did my best to give it the justice it so mightily deserves. As a Virginia resident who has visited Monticello several times, I was especially fascinated with the title novella which centers around a University of Virginia student named Da'Naisha, who also happens to be from the lineage of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. Unwarranted and overt hostilities towards people of color has become so out of control a group gathers and runs for their lives to Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's favorite home) for safety. Da'Naisha is pregnant and has a frail grandmother she is trying to protect while trying to rally her group together to fend off the unprovoked attacks from a legion of out of control racists. Sadly, as I listened to the desperation of the people of 'My Monticello' I was reminded of all the racism still happening in our world today, and how very far we still need to go for it to be eradicated for good. Other novellas included are 'Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse' which discusses striving to have something that makes you feel safe (such as a home) as a Black person can stem from a false sense of reality in an America that is still (in 2021) overrun with racism. 'Control Negro' is about a man who is closely observing his son with the goal of ascertaining whether or not it is possible for a Black man to overcome the stigma of racism if he (barring skin color) is identical in every other way to the innumerable ("everyman") U.S. white males. Strong commentary on institutional racism in all its glory. The narration performed by Aja Naomi King; January LaVoy; Landon Woodson; LeVar Burton; Ngozi Anyanwu; and Tomiwa Edun is exquisite, The passion exuded from each of these exceptionally gifted voices brought genuine tears to my eyes as I listened to the pain and plights of every single character. 'My Monticello' should be on the required listening/reading lists in high schools throughout the nation. Prioritizing time for open minded and informed discussions about race is the only way we are going to have hope of moving forward and becoming truly united as a human race. With much appreciation to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the audiobook download in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. #NetGalley #MacmillanAudio #MyMonticello #JocelynNicoleJohnson

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burke

    "My Monticello'' is an stunning collection of stories showing good people struggling to survive in a country where the rules are not the same for everyone. These tales are heartbreaking with characters futilely fighting for happiness in a world stacked against them. Discrimination is not just a buzzword here, it is a riptide to be reckoned with every day. All six stories are universally powerful but the showpiece of this collection is the title novella "My Monticello ''. Society has broken down "My Monticello'' is an stunning collection of stories showing good people struggling to survive in a country where the rules are not the same for everyone. These tales are heartbreaking with characters futilely fighting for happiness in a world stacked against them. Discrimination is not just a buzzword here, it is a riptide to be reckoned with every day. All six stories are universally powerful but the showpiece of this collection is the title novella "My Monticello ''. Society has broken down and white supremacists are burning and looting, forcing a mixed race group to take refuge nearby in Thomas Jefferson's old Monticello plantation. Included in this group is a black college student, Da’Naisha, who happens to be a descendant of Jefferson and his slave mistress Sally Hemings. Woven into the plot are brutal historical facts that just had me shaking my head... not everything was included in school textbooks. Jocelyn Nicole Johnson's book is an important work and easily the best thing I have read this year. Each story is completely different in style, yet all solidly land their message. This is her first published book and it certainly holds a great promise for the future. Five stars. Thank you to Henry Holt & Company, NetGalley, and Jocelyn Nicole Johnson for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.   #MyMonticello #NetGalley

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    A thought-provoking collection of short stories, plus the titular novella My Monticello, that use fiction to explore issues of race, identity, and displacement through the Black American experience. A stellar debut from an author you should keep an eye on. This collection represents Africans in diaspora, as well as African Americans and shows the variation in Black American experience. A professor uses his son as the test subject looking at treatment based on race, with horrifying results. A Nig A thought-provoking collection of short stories, plus the titular novella My Monticello, that use fiction to explore issues of race, identity, and displacement through the Black American experience. A stellar debut from an author you should keep an eye on. This collection represents Africans in diaspora, as well as African Americans and shows the variation in Black American experience. A professor uses his son as the test subject looking at treatment based on race, with horrifying results. A Nigerian immigrant refuses to acknowledge that his son has a learning disability. A mixed-race woman struggles with how others view her identity and what her place in the world is... And in My Monticello, a violent social breakdown leads to people taking refuge in Monticello, the estate of former President Thomas Jefferson. Among them is a young Black woman descended from Jefferson and his enslaved teenage "mistress" Sally Hemmings. It deftly explores the complexities of race, power, and privilege. Not only in history, but also today. There is a lot to unpack here and I look forward to seeing more from this author. The audio narration is very good as well with a full cast and I'd recommend checking it out. I received an audio review copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Oscreads

    Incredible collection! That last novella tho…had me at the edge of my seat.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Migdalia Jimenez

    Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s debut story collection is brilliant. Using a wide variety of story-telling techniques, each story is supremely well-crafted and functions as a universe of it’s own. The first story, 'Control Negro' had a dark satire feel about it. It reminded me of another book I really enjoyed- 'We Cast a Shadow' by Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Johnson tells 'Virginia is not your Home' in the 2nd person voice which she wielded perfectly. I really did feel this story more personally than the ot Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s debut story collection is brilliant. Using a wide variety of story-telling techniques, each story is supremely well-crafted and functions as a universe of it’s own. The first story, 'Control Negro' had a dark satire feel about it. It reminded me of another book I really enjoyed- 'We Cast a Shadow' by Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Johnson tells 'Virginia is not your Home' in the 2nd person voice which she wielded perfectly. I really did feel this story more personally than the others. 'Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse' was one of my favorites in that it captured the strange feeling of going through the motions of everyday life as the world crashes around you. I think it will resonate with many readers as we emerge from the 2020 -2021 Pandemic. The titular story, 'My Monticello' is fantastic and deserving of having the whole book named after it. Its a gut-wrenching story about a group of mostly Black people who flee when a white mob sets fire to their neighborhood. They make it up a hill and into the historic home of Thomas Jefferson, now a museum, famously built by the people he enslaved. All the contradictions of this founding father proclaiming that all men are created equal while he himself enslaved people, are brought to life in a very personal and unforgettable way. Johnson artfully asks us readers to contemplate- who gets to claim the legacy of being American? Who is deemed worthy in this country? Which historical figures do we revere and which do we erase? Can a country that was built on white supremacy ever be redeemed? I could see Johnson making this last story a full-length novel, it was that good. It reminded me of Octavia Butler’s Sci-fi apocalyptic series, 'Xenogenesis' and 'EarthSeed', in that it’s about a diverse group of people joined together by circumstance, struggling to make a new and more just society together. I loved this book and I can’t wait to read more by her. Full disclosure - I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nia Forrester

    Excellent. If you're Black and know the story of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, you've probably wondered about that episode in history, and given some consideration to what may have become of her descendants. She was 14-years-old and Jefferson, one of the so-called founding fathers was 41 when he is believed to have first taken notice of her. She went on to bear him, I believe it was five children, the first having been born when she was only 16. Most of her children, once freed, left the Co Excellent. If you're Black and know the story of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, you've probably wondered about that episode in history, and given some consideration to what may have become of her descendants. She was 14-years-old and Jefferson, one of the so-called founding fathers was 41 when he is believed to have first taken notice of her. She went on to bear him, I believe it was five children, the first having been born when she was only 16. Most of her children, once freed, left the Commonwealth of Virginia never to return. This book is about the stain and legacy of Thomas Jefferson in the blood of his Black descendants, and the ways in which the world has changed, and the ways it has stayed the same since he took a young Black girl, Sally Hemings to his bed, without repercussion, because she was his "property", gifted to his wife as her personal maid (who was also incidentally her sister). It was hard to read this book, comprised of five shorts and a novella, without feeling enraged. But the writing was so good, it was also impossible to put down. In the first short, 'Control Negro' a university professor who, despite living an exemplary and respectable life finds himself compared to an ape by one of his students, and decides to conduct an experiment, making his own son a living example of Black excellence. His thesis is that, despite this, his son will never be exempt from the dangers and prejudices visited on Black people of lesser excellence, and never benefit from the same things bestowed undeservingly on mediocre white men. Others that stayed with me are the short, 'Virginia is Not Your Home' wherein a young woman named after the state she works hard to escape, finds that despite herself, she carries it with her no matter how far and wide she may go. In another, an immigrant father forced into a different kind of servitude than the enslaved who came to America involuntarily, struggles to maintain his dignity through his only son. And in the novella 'My Monticello' for which the book is named, unrest reaches Charlottesville, not unlike the actual unrest we saw in 2017. In this version of events, referred to as 'the Unravelling', a descendant of Hemings and Jefferson flees with her ailing grandmother and a motley crew of their neighbors, seeking refuge in, of all places, Monticello, where at one time Thomas Jefferson owned several hundred enslaved. The conflict I felt is the same one I always feel when I read debuts like this from Black writers. On the one hand, I think, 'how many other voices like this are there, which we may never hear because of a still white dominated, one-note publishing industry?' And yet, how wonderful that we get to hear this voice? This one is highly recommended. Audiobook note: I got both the audiobook and galley from NetGalley and was blown away by the narrators. Particularly exciting was hearing LeVar Burton read 'Control Negro'. Pulled me in immediately and made my emotional investment in reading or listening to the rest of the book a certainty.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I hate plopping down a rating for a short story collection featuring a novella chaser. Generally speaking the stories within are of an unbalanced nature — you like some, you love one, and you find the others rather middling. It's hard to look at them as a smaller piece of a whole, because, really, they all stand on their own. The first story, Control Negro, sets a stunning expectation — or did for me, at least. A Black professor sets about to devise an experiment with his son as the subject. He i I hate plopping down a rating for a short story collection featuring a novella chaser. Generally speaking the stories within are of an unbalanced nature — you like some, you love one, and you find the others rather middling. It's hard to look at them as a smaller piece of a whole, because, really, they all stand on their own. The first story, Control Negro, sets a stunning expectation — or did for me, at least. A Black professor sets about to devise an experiment with his son as the subject. He is not known to the boy as his father; the mother agrees to an arrangement where the father has a tangental relationship with the boy, at most. Through this lens, he clinically observes his subject, setting up a lifestyle for his son and comparing him to white boys with an otherwise same start in life. Control Negro was by far my favorite of this collection. It's wholly compelling, reminding me of a mid-century work by Ray Bradbury or one of Richard Matheson's contributions to The Twilight Zone (1959). The emotional detachment from the professor father is downright unsettling. Johnson uses a style here that rides the line between some new version of a Sci-Fi/Contemporary/Literary mashup. Virginia is Not Your Home, the second story, was also a showcase. Not quite as compelling as the first, but that was more in line with the nature of the story itself. The style here is sort of an unfurling of a tale . . . the second-person narration is clipped and feels well up above the story, but once I was able to settle into the rhythm, the delivery was smooth with a wonderful, understated ache. I found the third story, Something Sweet on Our Tongues, to be a little too emotionally distant and reserved. While I still enjoyed it, the narrative is told in a first-person plural ("we") and this kept pushing me away from getting at the crux of the story or from understanding the main characters with the idea of we in mind. Next up, Building a House Ahead of the Apocalypse, was a strange but utterly engaging checklist. Also told in second person, the story, which was the shortest in the collection, was really very relatable. Probably my second favorite of the bunch. The King of Xandria, the fifth story, is about a Nigerian widower who has immigrated to the United States and raises his children here — but then no longer recognizes himself in who they have become. This one only picked up for me near its end. Again, with a really startling level of emotional distance from the main character. As in line as this style was with the character's emotional state — unmoored and unsure — it made it difficult to get in and understand him better. It also was a little meandering in itself with something leaning towards, but never quite arriving at, stream of consciousness. The last story, which is the titular tale, My Monticello, takes up a good chunk of the collection, more than double the length of the other five combined. I really wanted to like this one more — maybe the most — but the distance at which the narrator is placed from the reader was too far to reach. A reluctant storyteller is just someone I don't want to chase. I liked the plot and found it really intriguing, but the engagement of the story in itself was something for which I could not compensate on my own. My Monticello seemed to have the most story to tell and was still the most disinterested of the lot. Overall, Johnson has constructed an arrangement of stories that are rather impactful with a wide range of mood, style, and subject. There is a unique voice in each of these, and I look forward to seeing where Johnson heads for future works.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kari Ann Sweeney

    My Monticello was gripping and immersive debut on audio. If this is on your TBR I highly encourage the audiobook format. This collection of short stories and a novella is a nuanced social commentary that explores race, identity, violence, gender discrimination, poverty, and class. Each story & novella has a unique voice and each of them moved me in a different way. The prose was stunning, powerful, rich and honest. Johnson's writing was masterful in evoking a range of emotions full of tension and My Monticello was gripping and immersive debut on audio. If this is on your TBR I highly encourage the audiobook format. This collection of short stories and a novella is a nuanced social commentary that explores race, identity, violence, gender discrimination, poverty, and class. Each story & novella has a unique voice and each of them moved me in a different way. The prose was stunning, powerful, rich and honest. Johnson's writing was masterful in evoking a range of emotions full of tension and hope. 𝐂𝐎𝐍𝐍𝐄𝐂𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍: I visited Charlottesville and Monticello in the spring on 2019. My experience was heightened by having a frame of reference for the setting.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary McBride

    4.5 A great new voice. Two short stories and a novella. Set in the near future near the nations capital .. The city is taken over by white supremacists. And the blacks are forced to flee and take refuge at Monticello . A thought provoking debut about the true founders of our country and the fight against racism .

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chelsey (a_novel_idea11)

    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 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.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I've seen a number of reviews mention that this is a collection of short stories, however my ARC only included the titular story which was more novella in length; as such my review is only of this story. My Monticello is a near-future apocalypse-esque tale which is all too easily imagined in the current era. White supremacists have hounded residents of Charlottesville out of their homes and the group seek refuge in Thomas Jefferson's plantation home as the supremacist hordes descend upon them. Th I've seen a number of reviews mention that this is a collection of short stories, however my ARC only included the titular story which was more novella in length; as such my review is only of this story. My Monticello is a near-future apocalypse-esque tale which is all too easily imagined in the current era. White supremacists have hounded residents of Charlottesville out of their homes and the group seek refuge in Thomas Jefferson's plantation home as the supremacist hordes descend upon them. This was unfortunately another example of a fantastic premise not being fulfilled to the extent that it perhaps could have been (in my opinion). The main character, Da'Naisha is a descend of Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, creating an obvious link between their surroundings and her own personal history. She is also hunkering down amidst all this violence with her current boyfriend, grandmother and her ex, which gives rise to multiple issues during the story. I felt that the author focused too much on the wide cast of supporting characters which left less time than I liked spent with Da'Naisha and developing her character and story. Thank you Random House UK / Vintage for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Gay (lifeandbookswithme)

    3.5 stars! A short story collection that focuses on black protagonists as they navigate their realities. The namesake story follows a young woman who is Thomas Jefferson’s descendant. They are forced to seek refuge after their homes are attacked by white supremacists in Jefferson’s old plantation. I loved how these short stories trace the truth of racism and alienation that still exists in society today with black lives. Monticello was masterful and fully sucked me in! However, I found the other s 3.5 stars! A short story collection that focuses on black protagonists as they navigate their realities. The namesake story follows a young woman who is Thomas Jefferson’s descendant. They are forced to seek refuge after their homes are attacked by white supremacists in Jefferson’s old plantation. I loved how these short stories trace the truth of racism and alienation that still exists in society today with black lives. Monticello was masterful and fully sucked me in! However, I found the other stories to be less memorable. The writing style was very melodic and I gave my rating almost based solely upon Monticello. The ending was perfect. Thanks to @librofm and @henryholt for my review copies.

  28. 5 out of 5

    MaryBeth's Bookshelf

    Incredible. I listened to the audio and can't recommend it enough. Incredible. I listened to the audio and can't recommend it enough.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sahitya

    I’ve had a couple of instances this year where I read literary fiction despite knowing I don’t like the genre, probably because I thought this could be the one. This collection was as usual not something I had heard of at all. I had just finished reading the book How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith which me rethink a lot about plantations in general and the history of Monticello in particular. So when I saw this title while browsing netgalley, it immediately drew my attention and I wanted to g I’ve had a couple of instances this year where I read literary fiction despite knowing I don’t like the genre, probably because I thought this could be the one. This collection was as usual not something I had heard of at all. I had just finished reading the book How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith which me rethink a lot about plantations in general and the history of Monticello in particular. So when I saw this title while browsing netgalley, it immediately drew my attention and I wanted to give it a try. The writing in this collection is wonderful and very effective at tugging our heartstrings or shocking us with the ideas explored. I can’t say I understood them all but they were all definitely unique. It was not at all surprising that race and racism forms a major thread through all the stories but what leaves a deeper impression is the strength of family - blood or found. I also listened to the audiobook in parts and I loved the idea of each story having its own narrator, with each bringing their own style to the storytelling. It definitely enhanced the experience. So if you are a fan of literary fiction or short story collections, you should check this out. And if you only wanna read one story, it has to be the titular one because it’s quite unforgettable. Below are my individual reviews… Control Negro CW: racist micro aggressions, assault, police brutality I am frankly surprised at the premise of this story. It’s both horrifying in its idea but also a bit sad because it ultimately tries to answer the ONE question - what is it exactly that Black people have to do to be respected for their humanity and their achievements without devolving into racist diatribe or in the extreme, getting killed by cops for no fault of theirs. Virginia is Not Your Home Not my kind of story. It’s too realistic and hard hitting to read stories of women stuck in their lives as housewives and feeling like they haven’t achieved anything and don’t belong anywhere, and I just don’t have the appetite for them anymore. Something Sweet on our Tongues CW: assault I had a hard time understanding where this story was going and especially that ending was kinda horrible. Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse This felt very prescient with all the preparations the narrator makes seeming very realistic. I especially was hurt by the despair that she was feeling having been unable to do enough for her daughter to be able to own a home. The King of Xandria CW: mention of child soldiers This was heartbreaking. An immigrant father trying to piece his life together after his wife’s brutal death and ensuring his children are able to make a better life for themselves in the new country. But he also feels helpless because he can’t be the same sole breadwinner of his home in America and even more unmoored when he realizes that his children are growing up, able to make their own decisions and don’t always need him. It’s a tough situation for a father already dealing with grief and the author captures his anguish very well. My Monticello CW: racial violence This eponymous story is basically a novella which covers almost 80% of this collection in page count, and I have to agree that it’s the most impactful. Tracing the story of a young Black woman descendant of Sally Hemmings during a near future America ravaged by effects of climate change, we see how the lack of resources has led to more racial violence, with white people terrorizing and killing Black people. In this backdrop, Naisha is a brave young lady who manages to drive away from her town with a group of neighbors, escaping the violence, taking refuge in the Monticello plantation. It brings up lot of questions in her about her identity and history and her relationship to the place, particularly at a time when her people are being hunted again. But ultimately this is a story of her and the rest of the group coming together despite their differences to struggle and survive and help each other during the direst circumstances. They never lose heart and are ready to fight back for the little home they have been able to carve on the hill in Monticello. Very well written and evocative story which leaves us thinking, and maybe even a bit scared.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alice (most ardently alice)

    Set in the not-too distant future, scenes reminiscent of the white-supremacist riots that took over Charlottesville in 2017 see a group of black people seeking solace away from the blackouts and violence disturbing First Street. Arriving at Monticello - Thomas Jefferson’s slave plantation, now embalmed for visitors - our narrator, De’Naisha battles with her identity as the ancestral by-product of Jefferson’s love affair with slave, Sally Hemings. All while the group come together to survive the Set in the not-too distant future, scenes reminiscent of the white-supremacist riots that took over Charlottesville in 2017 see a group of black people seeking solace away from the blackouts and violence disturbing First Street. Arriving at Monticello - Thomas Jefferson’s slave plantation, now embalmed for visitors - our narrator, De’Naisha battles with her identity as the ancestral by-product of Jefferson’s love affair with slave, Sally Hemings. All while the group come together to survive the nineteen days in which they are hidden away in the historic building, planning their next steps. When I come to write a review, as well as bringing in my own interpretations and opinions, I try to consider the purpose of the book, what exactly it is that it’s trying to say. That’s why, I think, many of my reviews always have a positive spin, because whether or not it’s the one for me, it’s certainly the one for someone, and aspiring to succeed in some endeavour. With My Monticello, it purposefully sets itself sometime in the future, rather than incorporating it into a particular event rather than quite easily assimilating it into one we, disappointingly, see take over the news over and over again. The acts of racism and violence that happen in Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s striking debut are minutely subtle in their difference to scenes of today, yet manage to punch you in the throat in their familiarity. As a society, we are painstakingly close to allowing this to happen. Not only in the villains we vote into power, but in the way we frame history. De’Naisha’s character signposts a hypocrisy in history’s narrative, taking shelter in the home of a man who simultaneously signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves and yet owned 600 slaves himself. In Naisha’s present, she experiences a tug in both directions in where she fits as an ancestor of a slave owner, as well as in her relationship with Knox, a white man who otherwise stands out among the group of black neighbours who’ve hidden in the historic building. Identity, the politics of interracial couples, and chosen family feature heavily as themes in My Monticello. The book portrays a horrifying and barbaric conclusion to today’s archaic social structures that feels far too real. While I found it difficult to keep track of the multiple characters and often felt unattached to much of the goings on, this debut still held a lot of power in its premise, and moments of introspective clarity that prove beautiful.

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