Some Sing, Some Cry: A Novel
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Some Sing, Some Cry: A Novel

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  610 ratings  ·  144 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 theMayfield family. Opening dramatically atSweet Tamarind, a rice and cotton plantation on an island off South Carolina's coast, we watch asrecently emancipated Bette Mayfield says her goodbyes before fleeing for the...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published September 14th 2010)
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May 23, 2013 Chrissie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Lynne
Shelves: audible, art, usa, hf, race, 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...more
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...more
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...more
Susan  Odetta
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
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...more
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
To follow the life line of one's own family is a challenge but when those lines become tangled, diverted or camoflouged and belong to a family in a book you are reading, it is nearly impossible to keep the characters straight and correctly identified. If there is a criticism to this book it is that for me, it was very hard to know who belonged to whom, especially after folks began moving away from Mama Betty and from their own identities. The story begins at Sweet Tamarind, a southern plantation...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
Rebecca Renard
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
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
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.
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...more
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!!!
Thank you Goodreads - another First Reads win!
Perfect timing - this arrived in the mail yesterday, right after I finished my last book. This one is big & thick - a long family saga - am diving in now!

This is a powerful telling of the history of African Americans from post Civil War to present day. We learn of the effects of slavery and the lack of equality and how it affected Black society through the personas of seven generations of strong Black women with music being the common denominator...more
An amazing book! I don't usually make implusive purchases, in fact i don't shop, but if I could buy a book every day or a few books everyday I would! Well this was one of the best implusive purchases I have made! Some Sing, Some Cry is a wonderful composition-it art work-it is a song-a series of songs in a book-a book full of songs. I don't know blues, but I know it when I hear it. I believe this book to be the best tribute to music of all kinds throughout time and that music no matter what genr...more
"Some Sing, Some Cry" is a beautifully written historical novel of the African Diaspora that covers the era of Reconstruction up to the present through the lenses of several generations of the Mayfield family women. This novel is also a history of African American music, as shown in the title, which seems to answer the question Alice Walker poses in her famous essay, "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens": How did African American women keep the creative spirit alive from generation to generation w...more
Audio. This reminded me of "Roots" or "Thornbirds" in that it followed a family through several generations. For the first half of the book I kept thinking that I really needed to remember to pick up more of these "epic" type stories. The problem with an epic is also it's strength: It's so long! When you are involved in the characters' lives, you are so glad there is more written about them --kind of like in a series. But with an epic size novel you don't get a break between parts, and this stor...more
Some aspects made it feel like a masterpiece, others fell a little short

A lot of the reviews already written for this book include much of the same thoughts I had, so I'll try not to rehash all the same things. Basically: the book was definitely worth reading, however it was not an easy read - and I mean that in several ways. I'm someone who, no matter how long the book is, will stay up through the night reading if I'm really drawn in. Unfortunately, that happened less and less for me with this...more
I lost all track of time reading this book. A unique story line is always a good distraction.

Some Sing, Some Cry', is a book spanning over 7 generations of Mayfield women. Bette (Mah Bette), the first of the Mayfield women, born into slavery, on plantation Sweet Tamarind and the "fancy gal" of Julius Mayfield and is the first of the Mayfield women to be freed. Mah Bette is an eclectic mixture of a by gone era. She is neither religious or pagan but very much the spiritualist. She sees things in...more
I would give this book a 3.5 if I could. This book is an epic, exploring seven generations of Mayfield women as from the lens of music. I listened to the book and I'm sure that impacted the score I gave it. The reader sang whenever the lyrics of a song were provided in the text (most songs were original compositions by the authors). The singing added texture to the story, but in some ways I felt it detracted from the overall impact the music might have had on me had I read the lyrics. There was...more
Some Sing, Some Cry gives a panoramic tale of about 100 years of African American family history that spans over 7 generations. I thought this was a very interesting book and I really enjoyed being able to watch the characters develop over long spans of time as they grew into themselves and grew in or out of relationships with others. I think the characters were very strong.... the women being the stronger more fiercer characters in the books while the men were often portrayed as unambitious and...more
Jacq Francois
This book was a difficult ordeal instead of an enlightened work of fiction. I realized the book would be some since the author is famed poet Ntozake Shange, who also wrote 'For Colored Girls Who Consider Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf' (which is a light, but emotionally heavy piece of work), but THIS novel was just...too damn much. From the confusing masses of characters, to the sudden story developments & random metaphorical prose, the novel just does too much. There is no real plot, or e...more
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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...
for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo Ellington Was Not a Street Coretta Scott Betsey Brown

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