November 29, 2021 8:16 AM EST

In her debut story collection, My Monticello, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson explores with nuance and compassion what it means to call someplace “home,” despite that place perpetually reminding you that you do not belong. The collection is largely set in Charlottesville, Va., where Thomas Jefferson’s plantation sits and where Johnson was a public-school art teacher for nearly two decades. It’s also the location of the infamous and deadly 2017 white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally, which seemingly provided the inspiration for the titular novella, in which a Black descendant of Jefferson and Sally Hemmings takes refuge at the plantation while hiding from violent white supremacists. As her characters consider what it means to be Black in a city—and a country—with such a troubled legacy, Johnson asks us to consider what we consider home and why.

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