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An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored. Narrated in epistolary style, the darkly satirical “Control Negro” is the strongest of the five short stories. The main character is a professor who seeks to understand just how much race (and racism) matter to life outcomes. To answer this question, he decides he needs “a Control Negro” free from the disadvantages of his own childhood.
My book is me nudging forward from Jocelyn Nicole Johnson: ‘My book is me nudging forward from
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. This utterly absorbing novel – already set for a Netflix adaptation – is thus not just a meditation of how the brutal past of slavery still has a potent legacy in contemporary America; it also portrays the redemptive powers of love and care: “Why is it we love what we love?” Da’Naisha ponders near the end. “I felt such love at that moment, for every soul in that place, because they were like me and different. Because we’d become a part of one another.” 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.
Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s debut novel, My Monticello, is a meditation on how the brutal past – and, in particular, the legacies of slavery – can be felt in the present. I was a public school teacher for 20 years and I’m a huge proponent of community. I’ve had classes where all kinds of people who might not otherwise have a lot in common create some sort of relationship and unity. I definitely tried to highlight that in the book. I really used the ideas of teaching to shape how my protagonist, Da’Naisha Love, tries to get her group of neighbours to work together in this very tense situation. She has them do what a teacher would do on the first day of school – they commit to a list of things they all do together, to get by.
My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson | Waterstones My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson | Waterstones
Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.
Guernica: The community built in “My Monticello” is intergenerational, from the very old and dying to the yet-to-be-born. It’s also very diverse — racially, ethnically, and in terms of national origin. What were you thinking about as you built this group, which grows over the course of the story? What was important to you about creating this community?
My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson | Waterstones
Guernica: Tell us about the origin of “My Monticello,” the titular story in your collection. What were the seeds, and how did it bloom in the way that it did?My Monticello is a 2021 book written by debut author Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, published October 5, 2021 by Henry Holt and Co. The books consists of five short stories and a novella.  Contents [ edit ] 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. It is ultimately this love, if anything, that can sustain the group in the isolation of the mountain, as they are hunted down by the white supremacist militia – and by the legacy of racism which accompanied the stirring idealism of Jefferson.