I’ll blame the fact that it’s the most wonderful time of the year for why I’m so slow to read things lately. As you may recall, my reading goal this year was to read more books by writers of color, and my current read is Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett, which I picked up after hearing her at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. I’m going again in 2016, and I always look forward to it, both for reconnecting with fellow writer friends and also finding out about new books like this one. As someone whose career started in journalism, I was especially interested in reading her debut novel:
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 overqualified 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.
I’m hoping that by posting this here, it’ll encourage me to finish reading it by next Friday so I can post about another book. I’d like to read at least one more before the end of the year. It seems that whenever I pick up this or something else to read, though, I’ve been thinking to myself, You know, you really should be writing. After the momentum of November, anything less feels like hopelessly slacking off, and I know that’s not true, to say nothing of the fact that writing without reading is like cooking without eating.
So, if I’ve got time for one more book before we kiss this year goodbye, which one would you recommend?
(Also, notice that #GiveABook hashtag at the top? That’s because every time you use it on the Twitter until December 24, Penguin Random House is donating a book to the literacy nonprofit First Book, up to 35,000 books. So, there’s that.)