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Jam on the Vine

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  685 ratings  ·  153 reviews
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 steal
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by Grove Press
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3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  685 ratings  ·  153 reviews

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Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Interested in African -American historical fiction centered around Black press
Leslie Reese
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A few reasons why I gave this book 5 stars:

LaShonda Katrice Barnett employs driving, full-bodied storytelling with sensual details;

It features unconventional, yet honest depictions of African Americans and their diverse love stories between the years of 1897 - 1925;

I loved the descriptions illustrating a young black girl who is enamored of reading. Ivoe Williams savors newspapers, dictionaries, and secret opportunities to “cipher” and read books;

I learned that as early as the late 1800s in the
This book has gotten many rave reviews, and I, too, found a lot to like. I was truly touched by the Williams family and their fight for dignity and worth. Barnett created someone real in Ivoe. I was lucky enough to have recently read The Mis-Education of the Negro. In it, Woodson examines the issues that Ivoe faces in the context of non-fiction. It could be a companion piece to this book, because Woodson seems to speak directly to Ivoe. The Mis-Education of the Negro gave me more insight into th ...more
Taryn Pierson
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I voted in our city-wide primary election today. When I arrived at my polling place, I was greeted by five enthusiastic poll workers—and exactly zero other voters. Sure, it's just a primary for a municipal election, but I can't say I was filled with hope for the future of our fair metropolis.

More often than not, politics leave me feeling hopeless and sad. I vote, and I'll continue to because I value the privilege, but because my personal political views don't align with the majority in my state,
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
This is such a beautiful book. The relevance is maddening. A story of love and desire, Jam on the Vine is a call to be more not just do more. I loved this book and its amazingly resilient characters who exemplify the complexities of being tenacious enough to be great!
Ivoe Williams, growing up in the early twentieth century in Texas, dreams of a better future for herself, her family, and all African Americans. She is intelligent and bookish, and her family sacrifices a lot to send her to college. There she discovers her love of writing and journalism as well as the key to her sexuality. After college, she sticks with her family through increasingly hard times before she finally convinces them to move to Kansas City for better opportunities. There she is final ...more
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is so many things. Good things.
Thought coming shortly
This will be one of my top reads for 2015.
Dawn Reno Langley
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.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me???

Before buying this book, I had heard many great things about it from people whose opinions I trust and normally agree with. What went wrong here, you ask? This book was an utter pain for me to attempt to navigate... It's not necessarily the actual story that caused me such pain but rather the horrible manner in which it's written. If I could sum this book up in one word, it would be disjointed. This book jumps around worse than any other book I've read
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Naw, mistake number one was being born colored."

Barnett's stunning first novel covers a lot of issues and moves through some tumultuous years between 1897 and 1925. I was touched, tickled, and more than occasionally outraged. What more can you ask for in a book?

The reader is introduced to many strong and vibrant female characters who manage to provide for themselves and their families despite adversity and prejudice. And, who could not love the main character, Ivoe. Introduced as a young girl
Ashley Teagle
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
This novel makes me want to read more by this author. It's historical fiction about a black woman journalist who decides to start her own newspaper.

Add in a love story and you have a wonderful, beautiful first novel. If I had a criticism about the book, it would be that I felt the parts about Ivoe's father felt a little rushed and somewhat tossed in to the grand scheme of the novel.

Overall this is a solid first effort that will appeal to readers of LGBT literature, African American fiction, and
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-authors
Journalism, Jim crow, and queer history meet at the turn of the century in TX and move to Kansas City for WWI and the Jazz Age. A moving look at those forced into the "otherness" of society.
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For me, Jam on the Vine is the best kind of historical fiction.

From its first pages, I found Jam on the Vine to be very engaging. The voices of Ivoe and the other characters are strong and easy to slip in to, and I quickly became invested in their world and lives. Barnett's writing and characterization are both strong, and pave the way for this novel to do great things.

I will admit that as a white Canadian, I knew extraordinarily little about late 19th and early 20th century America. Barnett doe
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
Ivoe Williams moves to Kansas City with the intent to become a newspaper fact checker. It's too bad she didn't check the facts in this book. For example, Ivoe announces her move to her family quoting "Kansas City! Kansas City here I come!", a song that will not be written for another 41 years. At college in 1905 she and a classmate grouse about a curriculum that revolves around "Edison and Einstein". Einstein wouldn't publish his general theory of relativity until 1915. And it's not just the yea ...more
Full review: Where do I begin? One of the very best historical fiction reads ever! So informative and emotionally wrought, yet bearable. Barnett's writing style seemed a bit choppy to me initially, but after the first 20-30 pages it seemed to flow much better and I literally flew through the last 200 pages!! Barnett did a fantastic job of characterization and I loved the underlying love stories: Ivoe and Berdis, Ivoe and Ona, Timbo and Roena, Irabella an ...more
Dec 12, 2015 marked it as started-did-not-finish
Well, I can't honestly say I read it. It just never got going for me. I rarely rarely rarely start a book and not finish it. But this was tough sledding in the beginning and it was a failure to launch for me. I may revisit it in the future, but this book prompted me to create a new shelf. Started not finished.
This is beautifully written. I particularly enjoyed learning about early Black journalism and early criminal justice activism.
Mar 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017, 20s
"Surely by now I have racked up enough lessons in degradation for the dean of life to confer upon me a degree in bitterness." Ivoe, pg. 179

The making of a "race woman" (who seems a lot like Ida B. Wells) set during the nadir is a unique premise in and of itself. Made even more so by the cast of characters and not-Chicago Midwestern setting (well small town Texas first and then Kansas City). Each surrounding character is strongly developed and while the story jumps from inner monologue to inner m
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wonderful story of Ivoe Williams, a daughter of a metal-smith father & a Muslim mother from East Texas. As a young girl, she always was reading newspapers, always wanting to know more about the world, about the actual process of journalism. The family was very poor, the mother, named Lemon, would always have a garden & make & sell tomato jams & baked goods to keep them afloat. Life was hard, people did not care much for the black people. But the family had a lot of love & hum ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jam on the vine is the story of black families still treated as slaves in the late 1890s through 1925. It is a beautiful and haunting story of the resilience and persistence of our black population. The indecencies our brothers and sisters sustained is deplorable and a disgrace to the white population. Singled out because of their color Black Americans were targeted for everything White Americans could devise. Living conditions and segregation were appalling.

Ivoe Williams was instrumental in edu
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Most readers seem to love "Jam on the Vine." Count me in that number. "Jam on the Vine" is a historical narrative about Ivoe, a Texas-raised Black girl, who has an inextinguishable love for other Black people. We follow Ivoe from childhood, where she falls in love with reading after stealing newspapers from her mother's employer. Interwoven in her upbringing are the stories of those in her inner circle, including her gardening mother, her hardworking and prideful father and her free-spirited sis ...more
Catherine Shattuck
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
What struck me most about this book is how much the police brutality and systemic racism of the early 1900s is still alive today in America. Certain passages called to mind Ferguson and St. Louis County so closely it was hard not to feel that we haven't made any progress in the ensuing century. Surely we have, but not enough, and not by far.

There were several stories nestled in this book; I enjoyed the tale of Ivoe and her family most. That is when I saw the words dance across the page, full and
Oct 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Jam on the Vine is an important novel. Barnett explores the intersection of race, gender, sexuality and history, having done fascinating research and imagined the results in the lives of an early 20th century African American family through the course of their great migration from rural to urban America. The main character is a lesbian (challenge one) and a principled driven journalist (challenge two). On both fronts, Ivoe Williams succeeds in living the life she believes in and I laughed and cr ...more
Laura S
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
I received this book free in a Goodreads giveaway.

So some of the reviews led me to believe there was more sexual content, but I think there were only 3ish sex scenes and I skipped over them.

Overall I had higher hopes for this book. I felt that the characterization was fairly weak and that the author was trying to tell too many stories, yet failed to captively tell one. The switching of perspectives throughout the book only detracted from the story rather than giving a fuller picture or comparing
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This thoroughly-researched historical novel documents the methodical, grinding efficiency of Jim Crow laws and lawless mobs, which denied opportunity, dignity, and democracy to African Americans in the early 20th Century, by following Ivoe Williams’ tortuous path toward her dream of being a journalist who can advance the cause of her people. How’s that for a one-sentence review? However, I am compelled to add my admiration for the way the author makes her characters so vivid that I became so inv ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved everything about this book, but the ending. In a world full of all lives matters, what about us, and me too...sometimes you start to feel like maybe you could be wrong on focusing on one real issue. This author masterfully reflects real life everyday issues such as gender bias, sexual orientation, political scandal, poor housing conditions, and more while remaining completely focused on her central theme at lives matter!
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: casey, queer
An epic, finely crafted story tracing one Black family through the last days of official slavery, through Jim Crow and the rise of convict-leasing, centered on Ivoe: a lesbian journalist, typesetter, and race woman whose politics evolve from respectability to radical and liberatory. The brutality of white supremacy is stark and gutwrenching. The Black love is fierce and tender and durable. You should probably read it.
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
A very sobering read, especially when you consider that the injustices told in this book set in Jim Crow America are still issues today in 2016 (e.g. mass incarceration). Reading this book reminds me of how much Blacks have endured in this country, and marvel that we still exist. I also appreciated Ivoe's arc- that she struggled up until her early 30s before finally reaching success, and even then suffering setbacks that she rebounded from. Great read.
Jen McGraw
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a a great debut novel for Barnett. I did not like the constant flashbacks without warning, if that makes sense. Without a pause or some type of notation, a flashback scene would occur, and I wouldn't be sure of who the scene was talking about.
I did read along with the audiobook, read by Phylicia Rashad, which made it much more in interesting !
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Black Coffee: April BB: Jam on the Vine 24 22 Apr 17, 2015 01:36PM  
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LaShonda Katrice Barnett is an American author, radio host, teacher, lecturer. Her fiction, music books and plays are known for their themes about the African diaspora and race. She has a collection of short stories, three music books, a trilogy of full-length plays. Her 2015 debut novel Jam! On the Vine, drew attention to the author and scholar. In 2014, Barnett's short stories were featured in T ...more
“Each and every protest is a wave that moves us beyond the stagnant waters of servitude and oppression toward the shores of self-respect.” Her” 1 likes
“Facts were simple: most Negro men lived till somebody saw fit to kill them. One day his time would come too; the why and the how of it didn’t matter.” 0 likes
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