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Book Review of Jam on the Vine: A Novel

Jam on the Vine: A Novel
BettySunshine avatar reviewed on + 30 more book 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 mothers 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, Ivoes mother, if she knows Annie Faye, Lemon replies with Weve howdyed but we aint never shook. And then there is Every time I stand up, my mind sits down. And when Roena, Lemons daughter-in-law, says she regrets marrying Timbo, Lemon tells Cant 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


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