cover image Jam on the Vine

Jam on the Vine

LaShonda Katrice Barnett. Grove, $24 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2334-3

This wonderful debut novel takes the early 20th century and brings it to life, both in the South and in the Midwest. Ivoe Williams is a brilliant young woman who grows up in Texas, the child of emancipated slaves, and despite the obstacles she faces, manages to get a degree in journalism in Austin. But no newspapers will hire her because she is an African-American woman. Her frustration with the Jim Crow South causes her to uproot and move to Kansas City, where she and her lover, Ona, start a newspaper, the first female-run African-American newspaper, called Jam! On the Vine. She uses this platform to examine segregation and the American prison system of the day, sometimes at great personal risk. Barnett doesn’t shy from exploring the queer community of the time, “othering” her protagonist even further, while the experiences of Ivoe’s family add a wonderfully vibrant, fully realized vision of the shadowy corners of America’s history. Agent: Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. (Feb.)