One of NBC's "14 Books to Read This Black History Month"; one of the Guardian.com's "best books this February"
"So many historical novels read like connect-the-dots puzzles or costume dramas, so one that is fresh, original and time-travels to an undiscovered past is a real discovery...Jam On The Vine stands on its own as a powerful coming-of-age novel, and it is also a sharp reminder of the critically important role played by the African-American newspaper in American history."Chicago Tribune
"A captivating saga...The verdict: 'unforgettable'; 'gripping'; 'instant classic.'"Elle
"Weaving actual historical records throughout,Barnett creates an ode to activism, writing with a scholar's eye and a poet's soul."Tayari Jones,O the Oprah Magazine
“As addictive as your mom’s fresh-baked buttermilk biscuits, and just as delicious.”Essence
"[A] big, bold bildungsroman of a debut."The Guardian.com
"This wonderful debut novel takes the early 20th century and brings it to life... a wonderfully vibrant, fully realized vision of the shadowy corners of America’s history."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"This compelling work of historical fiction about a black female journalist escaping Jim Crow laws of the South and fighting injustice in Kansas City, MO, through her reportage, will bring wider recognition to the role of the African American press in American history, especially during 1919’s Red Summer of lynchings and race rioting in northern cities."Library Journal (starred review)
"An impassioned historical novel chronicles the early-20th-century resurgence of African-American activism through the life of a poor Texas girl who channels a lifelong love of newsprint into a groundbreaking journalism career... Barnett excels here at what for most writers is a difficult task: evoking what it feels like to grow into one's calling as a writer through psychological intimacy as much as immediate experiences."Kirkus
“A celebration of beauty, boldness, of the flowering of family, and the triumph of liberty against the odds that freedom and justice always face, this big-hearted kaleidoscopic novel illuminates our history and Barnett’s indomitable protagonist lifts up the reader.”Amy Bloom
"By telling a sweeping story of one remarkable woman and her family, Barnett carries us through the joys and horrors of the black experience at the turn of the past century with such immediacy that we feel the events personally. Ivoe’s story becomes our story as she gathers the courage to become her truest self by founding her own newspaper and finding her voice. Barnett’s language is lyrical and gritty, salty and funny and piercing all at once. Bouyed by the indomitable spirit of her heroine, she carries us with a steady hand through a crucial history, which gains an eerie relevance in light of today's racial dynamics."Margaret Wrinkle
"From the cotton fields of Jim Crow Texas to Kansas City to Paris and back again, Jam On the Vine's story of family, courage, and love will grab you and not let go. I loved this novel so much I wanted to start reading it again as soon as I finished.”Marie Myung-Ok Lee
"In lyric prose Barnett delivers a vivid portrait of life in America under Jim Crow in early 20th century. From the rural south and through the Great Migration to the cities of the industrial Midwest, she delves deeply into the lives of characters who endure the oppression and violence of racism. Jam On The Vine is a stunning and vital novel that heralds an essential and important new voice in American letters."Jeffrey Lent
"Jam On The Vine is a wonder of a first novel. Following the struggles of one remarkable family through generations of adversity, this powerful and beautifully-written story resonates with historical significance and shines in the end with the triumph of the human spirit.”Amy Greene
"From Juneteenth in Texas, to the 1925 Pan African Congress in Paris, Barnett combines an historian's craft with a novelist's heart. Her heroine is propelled through innovative tropes: the ingenuity of her Muslim mother, her love of knowledge, passion for women, and determination to use the printed word as a tool for freedom. A romance of the Black female intellectual that is compelling, informative and triumphant."Sarah Schulman
An impassioned historical novel chronicles the early-20th-century resurgence of African-American activism through the life of a poor Texas girl who channels a lifelong love of newsprint into a groundbreaking journalism career. Barnett, who has edited such anthologies as Off the Record: Conversations with African American and Brazilian Women Musicians (2014), makes her fiction debut with this coming-of-age saga, set at the hinge of the 19th and 20th centuries, about Ivoe Williams, a bright, avid daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalworker struggling to make ends meet in post-Reconstruction central Texas. Despite her bleak segregated environment, Ivoe grows up infatuated with the written word, most especially with the immediacy and color of newspapers she finds and, at least once, steals from her mother's white employer. Barnett excels here at what for most writers is a difficult task: evoking what it feels like to grow into one's calling as a writer through psychological intimacy as much as immediate experiences. The book is equally attentive in conceiving those who are closest to Ivoe, including her parents and siblings and two women with whom she would become emotionally involved while attending college: Berdis, the mercurial, flamboyant piano prodigy, and Ona, the magnetic, empathetic instructor who falls in love with Ivoe and eventually helps establish their own newspaper in Kansas City. Barnett's book is clearly inspired by the lives of crusading black journalists such as Ida B. Wells who inspired their communities to fight Jim Crow customs and legally sanctioned lynching. Yet most of those insurgent moments are crowded—jammed, if you will—toward the novel's end. One is left wanting less of a young black woman's rite of passage in a hostile environment, experiences amply represented in literature, and far more of Ivoe's journalistic accomplishments, about which there has been relatively little in American fiction. Now that we've seen how Ivoe Williams came to be, we'd like to see much more of the great things she was able to do with her craft. Maybe Barnett can oblige us. She's got the talent to do so.