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Check It Out: My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

This is Leah Erdmann with the Sioux City Public Library, and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Today, I am recommending My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson. In this collection of short stories, the author uses a range of voices to explore themes including racial discrimination, generational trauma, environmental crises, personal search for belonging, and many more that are widely experienced and important to grow in our understanding of. I really admired Johnson’s ability explore these challenging topics directly and intimately.

I listened to the audio version of this book and found the narration extremely compelling. The stories are all conveyed with clarity and tangible emotion that creates a strong sense of connection between narrator and listener.

The title novella is told from the fictional perspective of Da’Naisha Hemings Love, who is a young descendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, a biracial woman who was once enslaved on Jefferson’s plantation, Monticello. This story is set in the near future during a time of political, social, and environmental upheaval. A group of armed white supremacists force Da’Naisha, her grandmother, and an assortment of their friends and neighbors out of their hometown. Terrified and destitute, they find refuge at Monticello– a place that has complicated ties for Da’Naisha and her grandmother, which forces them to confront their family’s past and reclaim part of their identity despite the trauma it has caused them. As the group fights for their lives, their homes, and their rights, they undergo both excruciating loss and life-changing revelations.

My Monticello is the September title for the Sioux City Public Library’s Open Book Club, which is free and open to the public and takes place on the first Monday of every month. To learn more about this fun way to engage with fellow readers or to reserve a copy of My Monticello, visit the Sioux City Public Library today!

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Verde Outdoor Media.

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