Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Nine Bar Blues

Rate this book
The stories collected in Nine Bar Blues weave emotion, spirit, and music, captivating readers with newfound alchemy and the murmurs of dark gods. Rooted in rhythm, threaded with magic, these tales encompass worlds that begin in river bottoms, pass through spectral gates, and end in distant uncharted worlds. These stories describe the pain that often accompanies the confines of sanctuary and the joy that is inextricably bound to the troubles of hard living. Nine Bar Blues sings a multiverse of fully realized worlds that readers will remember for ages to come and cherish from page to heart thumping, foot-stomping page.

320 pages, Paperback

First published April 21, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Sheree Renée Thomas

68 books213 followers
Sheree Thomas — also credited as Sheree R. Thomas and Sheree Renée Thomas — is an American writer, book editor and publisher.

Thomas is the editor of the Dark Matter anthology (2000), in which are collected works by some of the best African-American writers in the genres of science fiction, horror and fantasy. Among the many notable authors included are Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, Charles R. Saunders, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Jewelle Gomez, Ishmael Reed, Kalamu ya Salaam, Robert Fleming, Nalo Hopkinson, George S. Schuyler and W. E. B. Du Bois. Dark Matter was honored with the 2005 and the 2001 World Fantasy Award and named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Thomas is the publisher of Wanganegresse Press, and has contributed to national publications including the Washington Post "Book World", Black Issues Book Review, QBR, and Hip Mama. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Ishmael Reed's Konch, Drumvoices Revue, Obsidian III, African Voices, storySouth, and other literary journals, and has received Honorable Mention in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 16th and 17th annual collections. A native of Memphis, she lives in New York City.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
89 (43%)
4 stars
70 (34%)
3 stars
31 (15%)
2 stars
7 (3%)
1 star
8 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 41 reviews
Profile Image for Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki.
Author 21 books102 followers
November 18, 2020
Sheree's writing is dark but ethereal. Her language is beautiful but at times paints pictures of the horrifying. The stories in Nine Bar Blues are subtle & sublime, running deep, & rich with symbolism and imagery, they tell of black defiance, struggle, and liberation and it's all held together by some very poetic prose. It's not always an easy read because it has a lot of packed and concentrated content. And that having being said, I think I'll just go ahead and read it again, rn.

Every story had a power, but my favourites were

Head Static
The Parts That Make Us Monsters
The Dragon Can't Dance
Who Needs the Stars If The Full Moon Loves You
Shannequa's Blues or Another Shotgun Lullaby
Madame and the Map: A Journey in Five Movements
1 review1 follower
August 3, 2020
Mystical, magical, mythical, musical: this is the good stuff. Aside from the poignancy and strength of each individual story, this is by far one of the best arranged collections I have ever read. Reading from the front cover to the back gives the reader a sense of accrued wisdom, the same way that each generation inherits from the last, each story shares secrets with the others in some sense. Moreover, the smartness of the emotional arrangement is likely vital for some readers: the most uncomfortable stuff won't come until you're well and ready, a grace and kindness from the nurturing, but not sugarcoating, voice of Thomas. I normally read "contemporary (strictly realistic) literary fiction" and I don't think I can go back. These aren't stories. They're songs. And even my creaky tone deaf voice needs to sing them with the author. A true gift.
Profile Image for Ctgt.
1,489 reviews84 followers
August 20, 2020
When you are given Life, at some point in Time you got to live it. And Freedom is not something you find, it's something you make.

A fantastic collection of stories filled with tradition, folklore, double dutch and love.

I'm always looking for moments and these tales had plenty

How we traveled between worlds, the enslaved and the free, the whole and the broken. How we stayed in the light when so much of the world trafficked in darkness.

Down by the river, where the water is brown-black and slippery, where the cobblestones whisper with the fallen trees, the morning belongs to the open sky. The morning belongs to all of us. I know this view. You look down and everything looks possible, like the whole world is a floating barge, and all yours dreams is just drifting on a bend in the river.

But that day Madame turned them blind mole eyes toward me. I lowered my own, thinking nothing good can come when slavery see free.

"A lot of blues and jazz got plenty of tritones, this space between notes that just don't sound right. And of course, wouldn't have no blues without that blue note. Church folk used to call it the Devil's music. It's what gives the music that restless, rambling along feeling. What made it dangerous."

They like to laugh loud, open-mouthed, the kind of laughter where it's all tongue and teeth. I don't judge no more, just witness. I know now it's a kind of silent, coded language, one you won't know how to speak unless you know what it feels like to want and need to be seen.

As a child, like many girls, I used to dance in the middle of my room, until one of my sisters would walk in. Then I would stop for a moment and giggle, then begin the dance again as if no one was there. As I danced alone, I was the brightest star, the only star in my imagination.

People think because they forget their dreams, that they are gone. They are not. The body holds them, the way rich soil holds water. Dreams are hidden somewhere deep in the bones, and flesh and skin.

The moon is the ultimate symbol of transformation. She pulls on the waters and she pulls on wombs. When we look at it we are seeing all of the sunrises and sunsets across our world, every beginning and every ending all at once.

A collection of the in-between
between breaths
between thoughts
between notes
between skips
between worlds

Loved it

Profile Image for Epickkasten.
60 reviews
April 21, 2020
At the time when I wrote this review, I have read most of the short stories featured in this brilliant collection. The writing is beautiful and there are plenty of wonder, magic, mystery, and music in the stories. However, there is also a certain elusiveness that makes me feel that I can't quite grasp the stories being told. It feels like reading in a fog. Sometimes I think I understand the essence of the story, but more often than not, I feel like I don't know where the story is taking me. Perhaps this short stories collection is meant to be read multiple times.
Profile Image for Caroline.
1,069 reviews6 followers
May 31, 2020
« Even a mother’s love can’t change a child’s fate. »

This amazing collection of stories is a real book experience, mystical and magical. The author will take you on a spiritual and musical journey across the United States of America. A delight to read.

Profile Image for Shannon (That's So Poe).
1,022 reviews108 followers
Shelved as 'dnf-nfn'
March 27, 2021
DNF (Did Not Finish) @ 15%

The writing in this is incredibly atmospheric and beautiful, but also very abstract and experimental. Although I thought the themes I could grasp were excellent, most of this went over my head! I eventually conceded defeat. I think this would be a wonderful collection for anyone a little more literary than I am, though!
Profile Image for Kim.
225 reviews2 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
May 18, 2020
If you like the visceral feels of authors like Octavia Butler and Kafka, give this a try. While I had flashes of visuals that briefly immersed me into the narrative of various stories, the drama just felt too dependent on trauma, and I'm the wrong kind of tired right now to wade through it. YMMV!
Profile Image for Chelsea.
949 reviews14 followers
September 16, 2020
I didn’t really get into these stories until about 40% in. The first several stories were interesting but vague and a little confusing. I’m all for some mystery and open endings, but I also don’t want to finish a story genuinely confused. I thought “Head Static” was the most compelling and it convinced me to finish the collection. Some of the stories are interconnected so it’s satisfying to read them as a whole. Overall this was a beautifully crafted collection of fantasy stories.
Profile Image for Krystal Rains.
14 reviews2 followers
June 22, 2020
Take a spin through the mind and music of a masterful storyteller. Sheree Renee Thomas is indeed a master of her craft, as she weaves stories and music through a shadowy realm of speculation...through many times and locations, with people real and imagined. An adept awarding winning editor of anthologies, she starts her own collection with a steady beat and increases the tempo on each page, with each story. My particular favorite was Madame and the Map A Journey in Five Movements. Haunting and hopeful, chilling and revealing it is a rolling thread through time and space.
Profile Image for W.L. Bolm.
Author 2 books13 followers
July 6, 2020
My brain isn't good at writing reviews these days, but this is a beautiful and haunting collection filled with prose so lyrical that it turned to song as I was reading. Glad I bought the book because I will be returning to these stories again.
Profile Image for Eugen Bacon.
Author 62 books89 followers
November 3, 2020
What Sheree Renée Thomas offers are words that race together. Character-hued dialogue that dances the story forward. Textual music that gives movement to worlds of sound like thunder breaking the sky. Your body moves, all your parts liquid fire from a single flame. A ricochet of melodies inside your skull opens possibilities, pathways to understanding invisible pyramids beneath your feet. There’s everything special about Nine Bar Blues.
Profile Image for Max.
71 reviews7 followers
April 23, 2021
Every sentence in this book is a poem.

I’ll be honest, I found the first handful of short stories in this collection rough around the edges. The prose were beautiful, but the narrative thread was a bit frayed for my taste.

However, around the halfway point, it really picks up. Stories like Head Static and Shanequa’s Blues-or Another Shotgun Lullaby elevate this collection as a whole.
1 review
May 28, 2020
Nine Blues is a fantastic read, an effortless blend of music, mythology, and troubled hearts. Reading this book, I found myself enraptured with the lives of these characters and the worlds that they inhabit. These stories took me all over the world and between worlds and sang to me the entire way. The writing is adventurous and lyrical and indicative of the human condition. I would strongly suggest this short story collection to anyone who loves speculative fiction.
Profile Image for N.R..
Author 10 books3 followers
July 27, 2020
Stories imbued with so much poetry and music and magic, they left me genuinely wonderstruck. Characters you'll want to check in on long after turning the last page and settings so rich and real it's *almost* like you're traveling (extremely grateful for that in 2020). Bonus joy: The story easter eggs hidden in the gorgeous cover art.
11 reviews2 followers
October 4, 2020
The first book I've been able to finish since March. Thomas writes these stories with an ancient rhythm that broke through the stiff corners of quarantine-psyche and softened them with copper and river water.
Profile Image for Leslie.
3 reviews
September 14, 2020
A gorgeous book full of insights, surprises and wonders. Layers of history, folklore and cultural details make this nine bar blues one I want to hear over and over, delicious, intriguing, mystical and unforgettable.
Profile Image for Carmen.
79 reviews
October 28, 2020
Completely different from my usual genres

This collection of short stories is completely different from anything I have read before. I was done with the third story before I figured out the title. But even though it is not my usual, the stories were compelling and gave voice to the longing in the heart. Thank you for an uplifting experience.
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 10 books52 followers
February 20, 2021
Fantastic collection of thought-provoking and sometimes heart-rending genre stories rooted in African-American urban and rural life and the African diaspora. Most of these stories have music as a base or prime component. Thomas's words dance and sing.
Profile Image for M.L. Desir.
Author 1 book21 followers
October 7, 2020
Thomas's prose possesses an eclectic flair. This collection of short stories is enchanting and each tale she has spun ranges from quirky, spellbinding, heart-wrenching, haunting, and beautiful. Strum through the pages to discover pain, triumph, revelations, and as Prince Rogers Nelson (may he rest in peace and power) once crooned and confessed, there is indeed "Joy in Repetition". As you reread these stories, may you discover something fascinating again and again.
Profile Image for Kate.
790 reviews24 followers
October 20, 2020
'Nine Bar Blues' by Sheree Renee Thomas is a superb collection of stories that weave together around the core theme of music. Though they all incorporate music in some way or another, these stories are varied as they wind in and out of different settings, time periods, and genres. These stories are also deeply entwined with the spiritual world and those that live just beyond our own. Thomas has a way of writing and stitching sentences together that makes the stories flow like music, often with moments or paragraphs that stand out from the rest because of the emotions they evoke.
A few of my favorite pieces in the collection include 'Thirteen Year Long Song," which details one man's experience of his town being overtaken by a local factory, "River Clap Your Hands," where a mermaid turned human deals with the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina, and 'Teddy Bump," where four girls that have gone missing fight back against the woman who has them trapped.
I can't wait to see what Thomas writes next and I hope that more people will pick up her work because her talent deserves to be enjoyed by more readers.
Profile Image for Eva.
Author 5 books22 followers
October 10, 2020
This #ownvoices short story collection should be required reading for so many reasons, and the author deserves as wide a readership as possible. The stories incorporate an aesthetic she calls the New Weird South, which combines elements of the Old South but fuses it with aspects of the New Weird, which Jeff and Ann Vandermeer are notable for disseminating, particularly in their anthology focusing on this sub-genre. This collection is unique, full of emotion, and belongs to a class of its own. It reconciles deep trauma and scars, uses poetic and impactful language, and presents a nuanced speculative fiction collection that is of a superb quality.
Profile Image for Timons Esaias.
Author 42 books55 followers
October 15, 2021
My reaction to this book is strongly positive, but also mixed. The writing is poetic and Baroque in complexity and vocabulary, and the imagination often soars beautifully. I tend to prefer the poetic writers, the heirs of Bradbury, in Science Fiction, so this collection greatly pleased me.

Two of the shorter pieces -- "Child's Play" and "310 Lucy" -- were special favorites. I was teaching a monthlong workshop on POV when I read "Child's Play" and proceeded to recommend it as an example. We are allowed to share the experience of God slipping into the body of one of Her creatures...

"310 Lucy" is a description of a house across the street, where people go in, but don't seem to come out. It's not actually a story, but there is a turn of perception. I'd have been happier with the story if the turn had been based on a rational evaluation, but that's not this story.

There is great exuberance of language, some nice African mythology, some African-American mythology, and a heavy emphasis on the music of the people. I delight in the idea of aliens here collecting our songs, the way college people once combed the bayous and Appalachians for songs and hung on the words of cotton pickers and gandy-dancers. I loved the idea of the light going out in Memphis, including the sun and stars, and the idea of a rare vinyl album that can heal. (I think that "Shanequa's Blues -- or Another Shotgun Lullaby" should be on a double bill with Howard Waldrop's "Do Ya, Do Ya Wanna Dance") I was generally quite pleased to be reading these pieces.

But there are issues, and if these pieces were given me by a student I'd have been requiring specific rewrites.
• About half the pieces aren't actually beginning-middle-end stories. They're poems or effects or mood pieces. [That's okay; I write such things myself. But most readers are actually looking for a story.]
• Little is done to make the reader care much about the characters. One often does empathize, but it's more with their problems than with their persons.
• Because the characters are sometimes not a hook, and because half the time there's no story, there was little to move me from page to page. I frequently broke off mid-story, because nothing drove me to end a story before I took a break. I had the experience I've frequently had reading Gabriel García Márquez: the pages are lovely, but does this author know what a story is? (As a rule, GGM can't tell a story to save his soul. Certainly doesn't know how to end them.)
• One story was a great example of use of POV, but most of the stories are written in omniscient POV with sloppy head-hopping, which was often disorienting.
• The poetics frequently end up being a substitute for meaning. I am unable to say what happened, or what "that was supposed to mean" in key parts of the book. It was lovely, but opaque, at several points.

I see in Goodreads that several readers gave up partway through, and I expect the issues I've listed are behind that. But for the Literary reader, and the poet, I would firmly recommend it. And I look forward to what Thomas does next.
Profile Image for E.D.E. Bell.
Author 30 books192 followers
May 10, 2021
As it offers, this book explores the blues, in particular, its connections across time. Deep, spiritual. Poetic. With metaphors and untied endings, it requests immersion. Just, lovely.

I want to address the content notes because as a person very sensitive to these, I received different accounts, and finally just decided to try it.

This collection addresses topics of brutality including slavery, abuse, oppression, child sexual assault, and self-harm. There are multiple references to skin harm and fire, and multiple references to the womb, childbirth, and child loss. There are a few graphic references across these topics, especially as the notes and heat grow toward the end.

However, it was all presented with such necessity and understanding of the trauma to the topics that I was ok to read it, at least as fine as real world events.

Given how these stories will forever change how I view the poetry and generational connection of the world in profound ways, I'm glad I did.

It is a tremendous collection.
Profile Image for Susie Williamson.
Author 3 books21 followers
February 2, 2023
Nine Bar Blues is an extraordinary collection of evocative tales, rich, layered and textured with magic that haunts, uplifts and ascends any bounds of expectation. With prose that sings and muse that flies through the pages, I was hanging onto every word that guided me deeper into the authors layered imaginings and startling observations. From curse-bound sisterhood journeying to the source of ancestry, through poisoned landscapes of an other-worldly earth, to golden mermaids; tales are woven with musical renditions that move with the rhythm of cultural change, alive with the sounds of souls.
This is magic and fantasy rooted in the real; snapshots of life as sharp as cut glass that stop you in your tracks and make you lose your breath for a long pause. From contemporary social justice concerns, and words that carry the weight of history in finely-drawn prose, this collection speaks truth to the abuse of power, truths that sing to slave songs, lost souls, and the blues. An inspiring and masterfully woven collection.
Profile Image for Pan Morigan.
Author 6 books2 followers
April 19, 2023
Sheree Renée Thomas weaves southern folklore and afro-futurism, indigenous science and down-home philosophy, brilliant insight and chilling horror, future-seeing and visionary knowing to create stories that NEVER leave your mind. Her lovable and relatable characters are full of poetry and prophesy. Her scenarios are deeply surprising and deliciously unsettling. Her ideas are wholly unique and moving. I reread Sheree's work all the time, and I learn something new every time. These stories are absolutely indispensable. I recommend her other books highly, too: Sleeping Under the Tree of Life and Shotgun Lullabies. Each lovely volume, published by the intrepid and visionary Aqueduct press (out of Seattle,) is full of short stories and poetry. Pure delight, pure beauty, pure passion. All HIGHLY recommended!
3,035 reviews10 followers
August 1, 2022
It took me a couple of tries to get into this collection, but once I did, I found it to be a really interesting collection of stories. Technically, most of them are not afro-futurist, exactly, since some have more to do with fantasy or horror or SF, but the stories are still interesting. Several were reprinted from other sources, but several were original to this collection.
Of special note was the most interesting take on the "blues musician sells his soul for his music" story that I've encountered.
Don't try to rush through the collection. Read a few stories and put it down for the day. Let them sink in, and you'll enjoy it more, I think.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 41 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.