Review: My Monticello

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I’m usually not one for short story collections and anthologies, but oh my goodness did I adore My Monticello.

A stunning collection of congruent commentaries on being black in Virginia, on the hypocrisy of white saviors, on the loaded history of Monticello and its original proprietor, My Monticello made a distinct impression on me. I loved the story and hated the narrator inControl NegroVirginia is Not Your Home was my favorite of the shorter stories, not counting the novella. My copy of this story is heavily annotated. Something Sweet on Our Tongues and The King of Xandria didn’t really work for me, but again, I don’t usually read short stories and am probably not the best judge of them.

My Monticello was the story that brought this book up from 3.5 stars to 4.5. As a big fan of anything survivalist or post-apocalyptic, and as an even bigger fan of anything relating to early American history, I was ecstatic over the plot of this novella. I was so disappointed when it was over – though not by the ending, which I thought was great. I just wanted more of the story to sink my teeth in. And now I’m particularly obsessed with the thought of more post-apocalyptic stories in Montpelier, Mount Vernon, Peacefield – all the founders’ homes. But I digress.

The novella was complicated; a group is run out of their houses following the collapse of the US infrastructure by a band of racist and violent men who burn their dwellings to the ground. In a panic, they hasten up the nearby mountain to the plantation of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s pride and joy. There they eventually move in, start homesteading, and start to retake control of the narrative, rewriting American history and creating at Monticello a sanctuary for black people, instead of letting it stand as a symbol of ownership, slavery, and cruelty. I loved all the characters in the novella (with the exception of Devin, whom I thought was kind of a dick, though he definitely had his reasons) and was so reluctant to part with them when the story concluded.

If you’re interested in all in complicated history, visions of the future if things continue to progress as they are now, black voices, or anything at all involving sharp takes on racial tension, violence, and prejudice, I highly recommend My Monticello.

Dates read: January 9th through 28th, 2022

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