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Some Sing, Some Cry: A Novel

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  778 Ratings  ·  164 Reviews
Award-winning writer Ntozake Shange and real-life sister, award-winning playwright Ifa Bayeza achieve nothing less than a modern classic in this epic story of the Mayfield family. Opening dramatically at Sweet Tamarind, a rice and cotton plantation on an island off South Carolina's coast, we watch as recently emancipated Bette Mayfield says her goodbyes before fleeing for ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published September 14th 2010)
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Dec 01, 2015 Didi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very good read and I urge you to give it a try. Check out this live chat I did with Stephen from SteveReadsBooks. Careful there are SPOILERS in the discussion.
May 23, 2013 Chrissie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Lynne
Shelves: art, usa, hf, race, audible, alt
ETA: Lizzie, to me, appears to be inspired by the real person Josephine Baker. You can find her at Wiki!


This book follows seven generations of a Black-American family AND Black-American music AND American history from slavery, the Reconstruction, WW1, the flu epidemic, the flappers, the Depression, WW2, the Vietnam war all the way through to the 21st Century. 568 pages or 26 and 1/2 hours of listening time. The book tries to do too much. Black-American music as it evolves is a
An incredibly interesting chronicle of the Mayfield family spanning from post Reconstruction era Charleston to 1920's Harlem to the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama/Chicago and ending with modern music. I loved the strong themes of art and music in each decade and generation of the Mayfield women. I am woefully ignorant to the time Harlem music time period and scene. I found it fascinating and plan to read more information on it. The stronger theme throughout this book is the legacy the women o ...more
Jul 31, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-edition
Starting shortly after the emancipation of the slaves, this fictitious family saga begins on the Sweet Tamarind plantation on one of the Carolina islands and covers seven generations as well as a good part of the world.

Mah Bette considered herself wife to her master, Julius Mayfield, even as she was his slave, and she bore his children. This is the story of her life after emancipation and the lives of the generations that followed her. It is also a story of America and the ongoing battle for rac
Aug 19, 2010 Dora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I'm so excited that I won this in a "first reads" giveaway! It arrived the other day and I can't wait to read it. I read some Shange in college and she's real good.

OK, this book took me foorreeeever--- it's such a "great American novel" project. This novel covers 7 generations of a black family, from emancipation through the 1960s.

I really enjoyed it quite a bit; in particular it was wonderful to see these eras in America through the lens of a black family-- particularly following musicians and
Susan  Odetta
Jul 28, 2011 Susan Odetta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a compelling 200-year, 7 generation, history of a family of african/american women. The characters in the first 2/3 of the story came alive for me and drew me into their lives as if I was there. But then things started rolling too quickly in the last 1/3 of the book and I kept forgetting who was who. I am left thinking maybe a story of this power and magnitude should have been 2 books? Or maybe something this sweeping, written by Shange and her sister, was too daunting to edit? Here are ...more
Oct 28, 2010 Joyce is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'm on page 106 of Ntozake Shange's Some Sing, Some Cry, a succulent and mammoth - 576 page - multigenerational novel about a recently emancipated family in Charleston, South Carolina. The writing has such depth and the characters are so rich that I'm intellectually full and emotionally drained after a chapter or two. If I read too much, I'm almost upset because I feel greedy about devouring the heart-wrenching and satisfying prose.

I mean there's a meeting in the church where Denmark Vesey plann
Dec 26, 2011 Inda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of course, I choose this book because of the name recognition as I have been a fan of Ntozake Shange's work for years. I knew reading this book would be a long process as it is not just another book made for easy reading and ebook consumption. Rather, this book is proof that literature is alive and well and those who still enjoy settling with a good book that does more than entertain still have options.

This sweeping tale does more than chronicle the life of a family. What Bayeza and Shange do he
Jan 06, 2011 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
I listened to all 26 hours of this audiobook, and was enthralled, entertained, and sad to have it end. Ntozake Shange and her sister Ifa Bayeza have crafted a sweeping saga of seven generations of Black women, interweaving within in it song, prayer, lament and love throughout. You come to know and care about the family which began in violence in slavery and emerged, in our present time, in triumph. A must read for anyone interested in African American literature.

Note: I highly recommend the audi
Jan 23, 2016 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. The story follows Mah Bette, a recently emancipated slave, and her family through seven generations. I fell in love with the gutsy and strong woman and them living their lives through the gift of music. This story is all about love, strength, loyalty and tragedy. Things that we experience all through life.

This is an incredible book, giving insight into the trials of African-American women from just after the Civil War through the beginning of the twenty first century. The beauty of the
May 02, 2015 L.A. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sweeping historical saga about seven generations of the Mayfield family, all of whom were either musical, spirited, or both.

The story begins at Sweet Tamarind, the plantation where Ma Bette has, until just recently, been the slave and lover of Julius Mayfield. With the Civil War over and her master dead, Ma Bette is finally free to leave the plantation, taking her granddaughter Dora with her (Dora's mother, Juliette, alas, did not survive her own tenure as a slave). Ma Bette and Dora start a new
Mar 08, 2011 Carla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty good book other than the seemed like the authors were trying to rush the ending, which led to a confusing mix of new characters in the last 50 pages...but other than that, I enjoyed it.
Dec 27, 2010 Judith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some Sing, Some Cry: a Novel, by Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza, is a huge, sprawling family saga, spanning seven generations, from Emancipation to the present, from Ma Bette's banjo to digital music, and from the Carolina Sea Islands to New York, Paris, and Los Angeles. Shange and Bayeza are sisters and they track a history of mothers and daughters from Reconstruction through the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, two world wars, race riots, and more. Some scenes are too brief and some cha ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 18, 2011 Sherri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first became familar with Ntozake Shange in college when I read 'For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf'. I loved this poem; which at the time had been staged as an experimental play. When I heard that this new book was coming out, I was excited to read something new by her and her sister Ifa Bayeza.

'Some Sing, Some Cry' is a 200 year history of a family starting from just out of slavery and reaching into the modern age. This family, heralded by the matriarch M
All the reviews I read basically said the same thing:
- it is not a perfect book
- but definitely glad they read the book
- not an easy book to get through
- an interesting approach to looking at black history
- it was a lyrical novel

The book did pick up once I got through the first time period - it did start to flow better for me.
There were parts were I was fully engaged and others that I thought dragged on.
There was a character or two that I really enjoyed reading about - but many were just flat
Jan 07, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beginning with the end of the Civil War, it is a multi generational saga of an African American family, and a good piece of American history as well. The intermingling of American musical history gave the story added depth. As is to be expected of a book of this scope, there is a huge number of characters. I was surprised how easily I kept track of them all. The dominant force in the story is the women. All the women are strong, determined and passionate. I was occasionally frustrated with the e ...more
Oh, the Kelley!
This one was a book club pick, chosen by my friend’s mom who found several copies of it at the dollar store. Yep. Well, turns out, this book was a good choice for me, because I was able to read it and pretend that these people were my relatives (or at least *like* my relatives). Treating it as a personal journey was interesting and much more enriching than if I had just tried to slog my way through it. Overall, I enjoyed the story, and the surprising similarities between this family and my own a ...more
May 23, 2011 Titilayo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
from the first page it was obvious that music and women matter. they drive the story. they are the common thread that weaves together a patchwork quilt seven generations wide. the mayfield woman each hear, feel, make, and interupt music differently. they pass this along to their children-in odd ways its the same chord manifesting itself in different people. as society changes so does the tune.

i'm sure the amount of research they did to make this "historically accurate" could fill up another 560
If this book is intended to celebrate the great contributions that African Americans have made to American music, then it falls flat. While the characters are well drawn, the story wanders around first in great detail and then in full sweeping time changes.

I found it very interesting to read a fictionalized (perhaps based on true life) story of the blacks who came from the plantations of South Carolina to make major contributions to the music scene in New York. But, this book is hard to read. T
Dec 28, 2014 Tracey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book at first and I ultimately enjoyed it, but by the end of it I was tired of it and couldn't keep track of all the characters.

There were portions that moved almost too quickly and some portions that were too drawn out.

Several of the earliest characters lacked any kind of closure. A case in point, after following Eudora's life for I-don't-know-how-many-pages suddenly she's a minor character with a few mentions and then her death is just a mention 2 years after the fact. At least
This epic tome covers 200 years and 7 generations of the fictitious Mayfield family, beginning with emancipation and ending in the late 1960’s. All of the women are either musically gifted or spiritual, thus, Shange and Bayeza take us through the history of American music as viewed through the lives of these women. The book would have been better for me had it been split into 2 volumes. By the last third I felt as though the scenes were rushed to get all the pertinent milestones noted and I was ...more
Rebecca Renard
Jul 17, 2011 Rebecca Renard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazingly creatively written! I'm a huge Ntozake Shange fan, and this collaboration with her sister Ifa Bayeza is so lyrical and dreamy. It's full of music. I saw Ntozake and Ifa read chapters of this book with a live band playing the sounds of the cicadas, trains, city life. It was awesome. In general, I could just float around in Ntozake's stories. They make me yearn for a life that probably doesn't exist (and probably never has)...those gentle, colorful, nostalgic, sista-lovin', free-spirited ...more
Dec 03, 2010 Jayne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The language of this book is as you would expect from Shange. She wrote this book with her sister and as their characters live music - so do they live language. It covers a time span of epic proportions - sometimes that compromises their character development - summaries of what happens to them are interspersed among the text. However, I really enjoyed this book - but then I, too, believe in the universal language of music - its inherent capacity to transcend race and religion and tragedy - its ...more
Meghan Fidler
A brutally accurate depiction of life in the south after emancipation. The sheer number of rape scenes in this book would normally be prohibitive for me, but the authors managed to keep the act while depicting much of the violence "offstage," if you will. I've provided a snippet of text to give future readers a sense of the prose.

“But this was no tour of the Riviera, the colored soldiers joked. The Service and Supply Corps stood for ‘S.O.S.! Niggas need he’p! Stead of a rifle or a shiv, five yo
Sep 14, 2010 Maggie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Just when you get into this book, it's all chop/change and on to the next generation. None of the stories follow through and you never quite get the satisfaction of progressing through on any single story line to the end.

But, it might not even matter, since each subsequent story is a tedious repetition of a previous one. This is definitely one of those 'the daughter makes the same mistakes as the mother, and as the grandmother, and as the great-grandmother.'
Jennifer Plante
Although a few things were too coincidental and others too predictable, I enjoyed this multigenerational tale about the fictional Mayfield family.
Feb 21, 2014 Ms.Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an amazing book. It was the perfect companion novel to read alongside or after _The Warmth of Other Suns_. It covers over 150 years of American history through following the Mayfield family through 7 generations. Starting with Elizabeth (Mah Bette), the last slave and first free Mayfield woman, all the way to Liberty in the 21st century - this novel is truly epic in scope.
Everyone should read this book.

It was an emotional roller coaster to read about these strong women's struggles to r
Jul 02, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a treat!I enjoyed this book!! I enjoyed following this family through generations.Love, Strength, loyalty and tragedy is a part of all families. I won this book from Good Reads Thank you!!!
Apr 27, 2016 FreeFormLady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My thoughts on this wonderful book can be found here
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Ntozake Shange (pronounced En-toe-ZAHK-kay SHONG-gay) is an African-American playwright, performance artist, and writer who is best known for her Obie Award winning play for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.

Among her honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, and a Pushcart Prize.
More about Ntozake Shange...

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