A new American classic: a dynamic tale of triumph against the odds and the compelling story of one woman’s struggle for equality that belongs alongside Jazz by Toni Morrison and The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalsmith from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother’s white employer. Living in the poor, segregated quarter of Little Tunis, Ivoe immerses herself in printed matter as an escape from her dour surroundings. She earns a scholarship to the prestigious Willetson College in Austin, only to return over-qualified to the menial labor offered by her hometown’s racially-biased employers.
Ivoe eventually flees the Jim Crow South with her family and settles in Kansas City, where she and her former teacher and lover, Ona, found the first female-run African American newspaper, Jam! On the Vine. In the throes of the Red Summerthe 1919 outbreak of lynchings and race riots across the MidwestIvoe risks her freedom, and her life, to call attention to the atrocities of segregation in the American prison system.
Skillfully interweaving Ivoe’s story with those of her family members, LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s Jam! On the Vine is both an epic vision of the hardships and injustices that defined an era and a moving and compelling story of a complicated history we only thought we knew.
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
LaShonda Katrice Barnett was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1974 and grew up in Park Forest, Illinois. She is the author of a story collection and editor of the volumes: I Got Thunder: Black Women Songwriters On Their Craft (2007) and Off the Record: Conversations with African American & Brazilian Women Musicians (Rowman & Littlefield, Spring 2014). For short fiction she received the College Language Association Award and the New York Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Artist Grant. Recent awards for writing and historical fiction research include the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities & National Endowment for the Humanities grant #45.129; Mystic Seaport’s Munson Institute of Maritime Culture Paul Cuffe Memorial Fellowship; Sewanee Writers Conference Tennessee Williams Scholarship and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Advanced Fiction fellowship. A graduate of the University of Missouri, she received an M.A. in Women’s History from Sarah Lawrence College and the Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary. She has taught literature and history at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College and Brown University.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a very honest look at life for a black woman trying to be a journalist in the US in the early 20th century. Even in her childhood Ivoe is fascinated with newspapers. She steals every one she can from her mother’s white employer. The written word is her escape from the poverty she lives in. She becomes determined to fulfill her obsession with journalism. Her excellent writing and grades gain her a scholarship. She excels in journalism at the school. But when she applies for jobs she finds herself “overqualified. Her potential employers cannot see beyond her skin color. The writing in most of the book sets the scene so perfectly. Some of the sayings are delightful. When a woman asks Lemon, Ivoe’s mother, if she knows Annie Faye, Lemon replies with “We’ve howdyed but we ain’t never shook.” And then there is “Every time I stand up, my mind sits down.” And when Roena, Lemon’s daughter-in-law, says she regrets marrying Timbo, Lemon tells “Can’t put the rain back in the sky.” I love that! The characters are down to earth and seem so real. Life is hard for them but they keep on battling the poverty and discrimination they encounter every day of their lives. They do whatever it takes to support their families. Lemon makes jam and prepares vegetables for the community; her husband, Ennis goes off with the plan to make money and have his join him later. The author describes the minor transgressions that get mostly the black men (but some women too) thrown into jail. The conditions of those jails are deplorable. It nauseated me to even read about them. When Ivoe continues to find herself unable to break into journalism, her lover and the community encourage her to start her own black newspaper. It was interesting to read how they went about doing it, and the resistance they encountered. The last chapter was a real disappointment to me. It seemed as though Ms. Barnett had a vast amount of research she had not gotten into the book. So in the last chapter it is all thrown in there. The chapter is rushed, disconnected, and preachy. It was a truly disappointing end to an otherwise wonderfully written novel
While I can't say enough about how well LaShonda Katrice Barrett weaves together words, I'm one who prefers story to verse. There were too many times where the reader is left treading water through the imagery while waiting for the story to move forward. Don’t get me wrong. There are memorable phrases and clever descriptions throughout the book, but I’d much rather remember the story and characters once I put the book down. Though Ivoe Williams is the main character, the story is told using an omniscient point of view, where the reader is privy to the inner thoughts of every other character regardless of their closeness to Ivoe. But Barrett's expertly written prose still allows readers to experience the pain and frustration of being black at the turn of the 20th century. The drawback is that I found the stories of the secondary characters much more interesting and moving at a much faster clip than Ivoe's. There are very few moments when Ivoe acts instead of reacts to what is happening around her. The lesbian element of the story seemed extraneous to me, given that we are dealing with an era in which racial discrimination ran rampant. Ivoe's love affairs could have been heterosexual without changing the outcome of the book, so it left me wondering the actual purpose it served in the characters' development. Overall, I would recommend this book to people who enjoy literary fiction and lots of historical detail. If you’re looking to escape into a story driven by protagonist-created conflict, this might not be the book for you.
One of the reasons JAM ON THE VINE succeeds is because it's an honest and heartfelt story about family, love, and ambition. The characters are real, their hardships test them but do not break them, and the historical references are accurate. The writing is lush and thoughtful, and often a sentence is one you must read again for the pure enjoyment of it . . . just like one would like to taste the delicious tomato jam that the main character's (Ivoe) mother produces for the neighborhood women. Set during the early 20th century in Texas and Kansas, the story of Ivoe is one that will feel both similar and different to readers. The family at the center of the story is African-American, familiar in many ways from stories written by Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. But this family is also different from what has already been part of many novels. This family is also Muslim. Barnett offers a glimpse into a world surprising and alien, but also one that readers can understand. The family's center is Ivoe, a lover of the written word, commits what could be a deadly sin for a Black girl in the Jim Crow South: she steals. But what she steals is far more important than the theft itself. She steals a newspaper. And like so many girls before and after her, she reads it in secret, luxuriating in its ability to take her far away from her own reality. It is that need to both escape reality as well as to mirror it that pushes Ivoe into the newspaper business. She takes her family with her to her new career and integrates them in the new home she builds -- with a lot of blood, sweat and tears. As she grows into her new life, she also recognizes that her love for her female friends is more than just an appreciation of that relationship. It's a love she cannot deny and she embraces it completely. Barnett's tale of racism and the birth of African-American newspapers is made more strong by the integration of this marvelous family -- and the recipes and musical interludes that sprinkle the pages of this novel. It's a wonderful book that I hated to see end.