The streamer has acquired the rights to Johnson’s novella, which will be published on Oct. 5 in the U.S. through Henry Holt and Co., and via Harvill Secker in the U.K. on Nov. 4.
“My Monticello” is set in the near future, after an ecological disaster leads to societal collapse and bands of white nationalist militias run rampant across the country. A young woman who’s descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings leads a group of refugees to take shelter in Monticello.
A finalist for the 2021 Kirkus Prize, the work has been called “a badass debut by any measure — nimble, knowing, and electrifying” by Colson Whitehead, “absolutely unforgettable” by Roxane Gay, “stunning” by Charles Yu, and “vital and unlike anything else you’ve known before … a voice brimming with both heart and imagination” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.
Emerging writer Bryan Parker will adapt the screenplay, with Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping producing for Chernin Entertainment, and Chernin’s Kaitlin Dahill and Johnson serving as executive producers.
A veteran public school art teacher and accomplished writer, Johnson lives and writes in Charlottesville, Va. She has also been a fellow at Hedgebrook, Tin House Summer Workshops and VCCA. In 2018, her short story “Control Negro” was anthologized in best American short stories, guest edited by Gay, and read live by LeVar Burton as part of PRI’s Selected Shorts series. Johnson is represented by Meredith Kaffel Simonoff at DeFiore & Company and Brooke Ehrlich.
Parker is a Brooklyn-based writer and was the first person to transfer from a community college to Harvard. After graduating, he moved to Myanmar, where he began making documentaries on human rights for the United Nations. After similar work in Southeast Asia, Tanzania and Haiti, he attended Columbia’s MFA Film Program, where he won the FMI directing award. He is represented by CAA, Grandview and attorney Lev Ginsberg.
Casting for the movie is yet to be announced, though Burton and Aja Naomi King will bring the story to life as narrators for the audiobook, lending their voices to the vignettes, along with Ngozi Anyanwu, January LaVoy, Tomiwa Edun and Landon Woodson.
“My Monticello” marks the latest project from Chernin Entertainment under its pact with Netflix, following the “Fear Street” trilogy, which debuted on the streamer this summer. Next up is “Slumberland,” starring Jason Momoa, and a feature film continuation of the British crime drama “Luther,” starring Idris Elba, Cynthia Erivo and Andy Serkis.
(Pictured: Jocelyn Nicole Johnson and Bryan Parker with the cover art for “My Monticello”)