MacKids Spotlight: Jas Hammonds

Jas Hammond’s stunning YA debut We Deserve Monuments is a swoon-worthy romance and a slow-burn mystery set in a smalltown full of secrets. This layered and powerful coming-of-age story is a love letter to queer Black teenagers. It celebrates the beauty of community and friendship, while also exploring generational trauma and how racial violence can ripple down through history.

Read on to learn more about Jas’s inspiration for their must-read debut + request a digital review copy of We Deserve Monuments on NetGalley!

When describing We Deserve Monuments, what’s your elevator pitch? 

Jas: A queer biracial seventeen-year-old moves in with her estranged terminally ill grandmother and uncovers family secrets while navigating the ups and downs of first love.


What inspired you to write We Deserve Monuments

Jas: I’ve always been drawn to stories about families, blood and chosen. In particular, I wanted to explore the dynamics between a daughter, mom, and grandmother and how trauma and joy can move between generations. I think it’s beautiful how young people can learn hard life lessons from their elders and vice versa. In every version of this novel I’ve written, the relationships between Avery and her mother and grandma were always center stage.


 Do you have a favorite character in your book or one that you relate to most?

Jas: I loved writing Mama Letty. Her snarky voice came to me naturally from the very first draft. But I think I’m personally a mixture of Avery (my protagonist) and Simone (the love interest). I’m a bit of a worrier (like Avery) and secretly a big softie (Simone!)


You’ve drawn comparisons between your story and Gilmore Girls, and Bardell is a smalltown much like Stars Hollow. How do the dynamics of a small town affect the characters and contribute to the drama in your story?

Jas: I love small towns (and Gilmore Girls haha). There’s something so special—and suffocating—about a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business, the woman in the grocery store went to high school with your mom, that kind of thing. It’s simply ripe for storytelling. In Monuments in particular, Bardell has a painful history stretching back decades before Avery was even born but it’s essentially shaped her entire life. I loved exploring Bardell not only from Avery’s fresh eyes but also through her mom Zora’s point of view, since she’s returning to her hometown after a series of painful events in her childhood. 


This story unpacks how racial violence from the past can impact future generations. So many teens today are confronting how to grapple with our country’s history of racial violence. What do you hope these young readers will take away from your story?

Jas: I hope they’ll be able to read a story about people who deal with the heavy weight of racial violence but also find moments of elation and pause and forgiveness. For Black readers in particular, I want to remind them that we have a long line of ancestors who have been resilient in the face of unimaginable racist horrors. Our stories and lives cannot be erased. And finally, I want to remind young readers about the beauty of community; yes, this is a coming-of-age novel about Avery, but she doesn’t exist in a vacuum. She has a support system of friends and family and I think now more than ever we need to find solace in our immediate communities.


Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.

Jas: I have to give a shout out to two of my eleventh grade teachers, Ms. Newland and Mrs. Lindsay-Law. Mrs. Lindsay-Law was my history teacher and was just unbelievably cool and Ms. Newland awarded me the Outstanding Honors English 11 Student award (so of course I had to name the teacher in We Deserve Monuments after her!).


What is the first step in your creative process? What is your favorite step in your creative process? 

Jas: I’m very inspired by music. I can’t write without having an extensive playlist first. In the beginning stages, I see my novels play out like a movie in my mind and I match songs to pivotal scenes and overall moods; nothing gets me more excited! The playlist for We Deserve Monuments has a solid mix of oldies, R&B, lo-fi instrumentals, and country!


 What advice would you give to young writers?

Jas: Read, read, read. Read widely across genres and age ranges. Journal. Maintain a sense of wonder when dreaming up story ideas. And have fun! The best stories are the ones when you can tell the authors were having the time of their lives writing it. And remember only you can write your story, and I think that’s pretty cool.


What was your favorite book when you were a teen?

Jas: I can’t pick just one! I was a teen in the reigning era of Gossip Girl and Private so I collected all of those and loved the scandalous drama of it all. Anything by Sarah Dessen. I also loved Paula Chase’s Del Río Bay Clique series. Oh, and Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Peaches series! 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jas Hammonds was raised in many cities and in-between the pages of many books. They have received support for their writing from Lambda Literary, Sundress Academy of the Arts, and the Highlights Foundation. They are also a grateful recipient of a MacDowell James Baldwin Fellowship. We Deserve Monuments is their debut novel.




ABOUT THE BOOK:

We Deserve Monuments
By Jas Hammonds
On Sale 11/29/2022

Family secrets, a swoon-worthy romance, and a slow-burn mystery collide in We Deserve Monuments, a YA debut from Jas Hammonds that explores how racial violence can ripple down through generations.

What’s more important? Knowing the truth or keeping the peace?

Seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson is convinced her senior year is ruined when she’s uprooted from her life in DC and forced into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between Avery’s mom and Mama Letty makes for a frosty arrival and unearths past drama they refuse to talk about. Every time Avery tries to look deeper, she’s turned away, leaving her desperate to learn the secrets that split her family in two.

While tempers flare in her avoidant family, Avery finds friendship in unexpected places: in Simone Cole, her captivating next-door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, daughter of the town’s most prominent family—whose mother’s murder remains unsolved.

As the three girls grow closer—Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoming into romance—the sharp-edged opinions of their small southern town begin to hint at something insidious underneath. The racist history of Bardell, Georgia is rooted in Avery’s family in ways she can’t even imagine. With Mama Letty’s health dwindling every day, Avery must decide if digging for the truth is worth toppling the delicate relationships she’s built in Bardell—or if some things are better left buried.


PRAISE FOR WE DESERVE MONUMENTS:

“An absolute must read.”
 Buzzfeed

“A gripping portrayal of the South’s inherent racism and a love story for queer Black girls.” 
Teen Vogue

“A pull-your-heart-out-with-its-teeth novel. . .[these] characters feel like real people, and so their big love, aches, and humor feel real too. Though the prose, plot, themes, and characters are expertly executed, Avery, the protagonist, carries the voice. Queer kids, Black kids, biracial kids — and everyone else — will find so much of themselves in her.” 
–Chicago Review of Books

We Deserve Monuments is an absolutely beautiful achievement. I felt this book in my heart, in my very marrow itself.” 
Christina Hammonds Reed, New York Times bestselling author of The Black Kids

“We Deserve Monuments is an exquisite story about the value of family, the danger of long-held secrets, and the beauty of first love. I can’t wait to read everything Jas Hammonds writes.” 
—Brandy Colbert, award-winning author

“A breathtaking debut that explores love and family in a tender, honest way, with beautiful writing and a mystery that grabs you to the end.” 
—Kim Johnson, bestselling author of This Is My America

“This is a powerful, quaking meditation on generational trauma that effortlessly blends the South’s honeyed sunshine with its rotten secrets. Hammonds has written a blazing debut.” 
—Kelly Quindlen, bestselling author of She Drives Me Crazy and Her Name in the Sky

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds is a beautifully poignant novel. Readers will be drawn into Avery’s story as she discovers long-hidden truths about her family and navigates young love, ultimately finding herself in the process. This was an amazing read!” 
—Maika & Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine and One of the Good Ones

“We Deserve Monuments is at once tender and riveting, drawing you in with its sweetness before sinking in its teeth and never letting go. Hammonds has crafted a profound story about family, history, and the burden of secrets, leaving no stone unturned or truth unexamined in this sincere debut.” 
— Kyrie McCauley, award winning author of We Can Be Heroes and If These Wings Could Fly

“I don’t know how Jas Hammonds managed to weave so many beautiful, intricate layers into this story, but We Deserve Monuments is an absolute stunner. An intergenerational mystery, a tribute to first love, and one of the best YA books I’ve read in the last decade.”
–Nicole Brinkley, Oblong Books, Rhinebeck, NY

“A phenomenal and emotionally captivating debut that weaves together small town secrecy, intersectional identity, and America’s violent history into one stunning, poignant, and sure-to-be influential novel. The kind of book that will keep you up until 2 AM – or at least, it did for me.”
–Andrew King, Secret Garden Bookshop, Seattle, WA

“This is the kind of book that will take root in your heart and never leave. I flew through this story of generational trauma and queer girl-next-door love with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Trust me when I say you need this book!” 
–Kassie King, The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, MO


Read more author Q&As here!