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Jocelyn Nicole Johnson Books In Order

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Jocelyn Nicole Johnson is an author who debuted with My Monticello in 2021. The story collection was a smash debut, a critical and commercial success upon release. The book was a finalist for the Kirkus Fiction Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Award, the LA Times Debut Seidenbaum Prize, as well as long-listed for a Pen/Faulkner Fiction Award and the Story Prize. The book bears witness to the legacies of the United States and is thought-provoking and expertly written.

Since the book’s release, My Monticello, the title story of the collection, has been optioned for adaptation into a film for Netflix.

Johnson was an elementary school teacher for two decades before making her way to writing. She has been writing since she was young, but she has said that she didn’t feel that she would’ve been ready to write this book at any other time in her life. The author has said that the world needs to be in a place to accept and be interested in what you have to say and even if you write something great, you may not necessarily find your readers. The world seems ready for what she wants to say with the release of My Monticello and the reception that it got upon release.

Jocelyn worked as an art teacher and she went to use a lot of her ideas about teaching in her novella. The story features a group of characters pushed together and she used ideas that she has used over the years about how to motivate people to work together. She has found that visual art can help get at things that are hard to articulate and also finds that quality in writing short stories as well.

The book is powerful, but it is also filled with sadness and anger. However, Jocelyn lines it with hope because even when we don’t know what is going to happen we have to figure out how to get through. The author cites Octavia Butler as an influence as the author was often thought to not have much hope in her books, but Butler said that predicting the future and offering warnings is a kind of hope. This was a similar thought that Jocelyn had while writing as she believes that what we do matters and we can make a difference if we pay attention.

She began writing My Monticello, the novella in the book, for herself. Her writing process is to start with something that has happened in her own life or that she has experienced, and go from there. She is able to sit with things and look at them from different directions when she writes and this story collection is her asking herself a set of questions.

My Monticello features some real life events, including the infamous Unite the Riot riot in Charlottesville, Virginia. That is where the author makes her home so she was able to see things in a way that many did not. The event had certain factions of people try to say that they were reclaiming the place and that people of color did not belong there. However, Jocelyn lived there for a long time and this was hr home with her family. She struggled to deal with that and what it would mean if things continued on in the way that they were going. In the novella story in the book, she decided to ask those difficult questions of what might happen if things continued on this way and what would be the consequences of supporting such a thing.

The lead character of My Monticello is a young woman named Da’Naisha. The character is a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings’ union, but that is a part of her heritage that she doesn’t talk about often as people don’t believe her. Her mother had bad experiences as a child from saying that she was related to Thomas Jefferson and people treated her with disdain over it. This is something that Johnson has witnessed up close living in Charlottesville. She has seen how the idea of Sally Hemings and the former president’s Black family and Black descendants has changed over the years.

The story takes the violence to an extreme end as the rioters head out into neighborhoods near the university and begin to burn the homes of Black people, and terrorizing their neighborhoods. Da’Naisha and her grandmother flee to Monticello where they form their own refugee camp in the historic monument. In addition to worrying about their own safety, Da’Naisha is also forced to reckon with how she feels about this historic place with a connection to her heritage.

The author used her actual neighborhood and community as the basis for Da’Naisha’s neighborhood in the book. She also used a lot of the things she saw in the public schools that she worked at in her short stories as well.

My Monticello is the debut collection from Jocelyn Nicole Johnson. It was the winner of the Weatherford Award in Fiction. The novel is highlighted by the title novella which follows a young woman who is descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Heming who is forced from her neighborhood due to riots by a white militia.

Another story in the book is “Control Negro” which follows a university professor that has devoted himself to the study of racism and observes his own son from birth as a social experiment. His goal is observe him from birth and shape him into someone so strikingly decent and true that America could not find fault in him unless we as a nation had projected it there.

The book received many positive reviews upon release, including being called a “badass debut by any measure―nimble, knowing, and electrifying,” by author Colson Whitehead. The Washington Post also had great things to say about the debut, calling it an “unflinching view of history and what may come of it.”

Book Series In Order » Authors » Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

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