Critics’ Corner: Book Review – My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

Casey Creutz, Editorial Director, Junior

Normally I’m not a fan of dystopian novels, for disdain of repetition, but My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson is an exception. Reminiscent of the classics, we have a modern backdrop, with modern people spiraling into the abyss. 

The first 5 chapters are a collection of black stories from all kinds of perspectives in the state of Virginia, a state notorious for its role in slavery and the antebellum South. The haunting short stories lead to a purge-esque ending complete with a gun-slinging, refuge-seeking, ration-counting end of the world finale. The tale is all too common, and would be no different from any other post-apocalyptic story, if not for the prerequisite, and underlying stories of the American experience, and how it differs for black citizens. 

In recent years, Americans have found their voices about the unwashed history of our country, including the intricate history of Thomas Jefferson, and Monticello. Monticello’s history is highlighted in this book by the juxtaposition of “the ideals on which it was built” and the ancestors of the enslaved persons who built it. This book is impactful, honest, and the perfect combination of fantastical, and true. Be wary upon reading, despite its raw message. The plot of the book is not always clear, and the short stories can feel like roundabout ways of reaching the book’s central themes.

If you were a fan of Margaret Atwood’s famed The Handmaid’s Tale or the award-winning works of Colson Whitehead, you should definitely give My Monticello a chance. Very few books manage to be science fiction and historical fiction all at once.