We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds Graphic of young woman with brown skin and dark brown curly hair, staring straight ahead, wearing a white shirt, with sunflowers along the bottom edge of the book.

We Deserve Monuments” by Jas Hammonds. New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2022, 384 pages.

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds. Graphic is of young girl with brown skin and brown curly hair, wearing a white tee shirt. Bottom of book cover has sunflowers.

Content warning: grief, cancer, death, homophobia and racism

“We Deserve Monuments” is an incredible story of how prejudice affects three generations of women – Letty, the grandmother, Zora, the mother, and Avery, the daughter.

Avery is a high school senior, getting ready to apply to colleges and follow in her mother’s footsteps as an astrophysicist. But when her mother gets a letter from her grandmother Letty’s next-door neighbor, saying that Letty is dying of cancer, Avery is dragged to Bardell, Georgia with her parents.

To say that Letty and Zora are at odds with each other would be understating their rancor. Letty doesn’t want Avery, Sam and Zora at her house. She is rude, grumpy, dismissive, and completely unwilling to do anything to improve her health, like stop smoking. Zora has brought Avery to Bardell just once in her life, and Avery barely remembers anything from that visit, other than the fighting between her mother and grandmother. Zora’s motto in life is to “Live Forward,” not revisiting the past or discussing it at all. Avery knows very little about her grandmother or her grandfather Ray, who disappeared before Zora was born.

At first, Avery plans to just survive her time in Bardell and focus on college applications and her plan to go to Georgetown University. But her next door neighbor, Simone, captures her heart the second she sees her, and Avery can’t help but become friends with Simone and her best friend, Jade. The best friends welcome and support her as she tries to connect with Mama Letty, discover what history her mother is hiding, and find out about her grandfather, whom her mother and grandmother don’t want to talk about.

I don’t want to spoil any of the plot, so I’ll stop there, but I will say that this book touches on the Jim Crow South, racism, the Ku Klux Klan, murder, infidelity, trauma, bisexuality, queerness, and love. Each generation of women has their own burden that needs to be shared before healing can occur.

Hammonds has written characters that absolutely come to life in your mind. What I love about them is they’re so flawed, but they’re trying. And you want to cheer them on and try harder yourself, because this book brings up your own issues with race, sexuality, and trauma. The women in this novel are strong and hardheaded, but love deeply and fight for what’s right.

This is a book that people of all ages should read – don’t let the Young Adult label make you think it won’t deeply affect you. I definitely cried for the last 100 pages or so of We Deserve Monuments, and loved every minute of it.

Mary Beth Adams is the Community Engagement Librarian for Alamance County Public Libraries. She can be reached at madams@alamancelibraries.org.