Jam on the Vine

Jam on the Vine

Book - 2015
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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 Summer--the 1919 outbreak of lynchings and race riots across the Midwest--Ivoe 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.
Publisher: New York :, Grove Press,, [2015]
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780802123343
Branch Call Number: F BAR
Characteristics: 323 pages ; 24 cm

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lostintheshelves
Sep 18, 2016

This historical novel dives into a fascinating and under-explored area of African-American history (1897-1925). It follows Ivoe Williams and her family as she grows from a reading-loving girl in rural Texas to a crusading journalist and newspaper founder; along the way Ivoe has sexual affairs with three women and the author explores many facets of African-American history, from Muslims under slavery to the 1905 Austin streetcar boycott. Most compelling, it shows the rise of police abuse and the convict labor system in ways that are eye-opening and relevant for the US justice struggle today. It made me think long and hard about what activist strategies work and why.

That said, it does have some classic first-novel problems and would have benefitted from a tighter focus. Some of the political discussion comes a bit too obviously from a 21st century POV, and there's an evil ex-girlfriend who is straight out of central casting. But those interested in African-American and queer history will enjoy it.

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