A book of short stories and a novella, inspired by Black lives in America and featuring the eponymous work "My Monticello" that tells of a diverse group of Charlottesville neighbors fleeing violent white supremacist.
A startling and powerful debut collection ... Our proximity is part of the astonishment of this story, which thrusts upon us an intimacy with Monticello’s many physical spaces ... Up close, we cannot ignore our present-day complicity with history even as the novella moves propulsively toward tomorrow’s inevitability. Simply put, a masterly feat ... The novella reminds us of what fiction does best: reflect our reality back at us just when we need it most. My Monticello aches with both resonance and timeliness, engaging in rich conversation with recent, real-life events never far from our minds ... The preceding stories in the collection, prescient and wide-ranging, depict finely drawn Black characters awash in microaggressions even as they strive to be and have more ... [Johnson's] deep connection to the state — its land, its landmarks, its history, its cruelty and its beauty — thrums throughout. It’s exhilarating to imagine the stories still to come from this gifted bard of a site whose remains she knows so well.
Jocelyn Nicole Johnson uses history to spectacular effect in her debut fiction collection ... What makes My Monticello particularly resonant is that it does not stray far from life as we know it today. In the near future conjured by Johnson, there are the heat waves and wildfires that bring climate change into view. There is fallout from a fraught election. There is the vile replacement theory rhetoric of the right wing. But the lives of Johnson’s richly drawn characters—their personal stories—are always in focus. And, because of it, the storytelling is propulsive, as we follow these refugees along a harrowing journey, with danger ever at their heels. My Monticello is, quite simply, an extraordinary debut from a gifted writer with an unflinching view of history and what may come of it.
Johnson doesn’t shy away from any topic as she calmly delivers, with too-real certainty, a ruthless kind of truth ... These six innovative, avant-garde stories showcase Johnson’s ingenuity ... Johnson plots each piece delicately, arranging them so that the subtleties shine through. The stories range in content and in tone—some ironic, some hopeful, some slightly sadistic—but each pulls its own weight, and each feels completely natural alongside the rest of the collection ... Throughout, Johnson’s one-of-a-kind voice offers a gateway to new perspectives, and necessary ones at that ... Part of the enjoyment in reading My Monticello is gaping at Johnson’s seemingly endless skill in plotting and sentence structure. While the novella is a bit slow-paced at first, and a couple of the stories could have benefited from a more apparent focal point, the collection is full of depth, and there are too many takeaways to count ... both unprecedented and inimitable, a beautifully thought out collection of elegant craftsmanship.