(Kansas City, Missouri) - LaShonda Katrice Barnett's debut novel, Jam on the Vine, has drawn praise from the Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and Oprah Winfrey's O magazine, among other publications.
Set in the early 1900s, it revolves around a black female journalist who leaves behind the Jim Crow laws of the South to fight injustice in Kansas City through her African American newspaper. Barnett, herself, was born in Kansas City and earned a degree in English literature and linguistics from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
She sits down with Eric Wesson of The Kansas City Call for a public conversation about her elegantly written work of historical fiction on Tuesday, April 21, 2015, at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St. The presentation begins at 6:30 p.m.
Barnett, who also earned a master's in women's history from New York's Sara Lawrence College and a Ph.D. in American studies from William and Mary, once taught at Sara Lawrence on slavery and its aftermath. There, she says, students peppered her with questions. After slavery, how did African Americans survive? How were black communities formed? Her answer: the black press.
Those discussions, along with Barnett's childhood memories of the importance of Kansas City's black newspaper, The Call, to her family, planted the seeds for Jam on the Vine.
Barnett says she modeled Ivoe Williams, the trailblazing African American journalist at the center of the novel, on real-life pioneering journalists Ida B. Wells and Charlotta Bass. Wells, an early leader of the civil rights movement who wrote for the New York Age, researched and documented lynchings and what led to them. Bass was a suffragist and, in 1913, became the first black woman to own and operate a newspaper, the Los Angeles-based California Eagle.
Jam on the Vine gains resonance from today's social discontent in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere. Events in the book lead up to and include the Red Summer of 1919, when race riots broke out in a number of American cities.
Barnett also has taught literature and history at Columbia and Brown universities and at Hunter College in New York City. She is the author of a collection of short stories and editor of two music-related volumes, I Got Thunder: Black Women Songwriters on Their Craft and Off the Record: Conversations with African American and Brazilian Women Musicians.
A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.