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Some Sing, Some Cry: A Novel Hardcover – September 14, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031219899X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312198992
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 6.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sisters and playwrights Ntozake Shange (for colored girls who have considered suicide) and Ifa Bayeza (the play The Ballad of Emmett Till) have composed a sweeping African-American saga animating 200 years of history through the voices of seven generations of the Mayfield family's women, beginning with Elizabeth (Ma Bete), a freed slave, and her granddaughter Eudora. Their fate and that of their progeny follows historical events from the Jim Crow South to the civil rights movement with tragedy and triumph: Eudora is gang raped, giving birth to light-skinned Elma, who grows up and moves to New York followed by her half-sister, Lizzie, a single mother with her own tragic past. Lizzie redefines herself during the Harlem Renaissance, abandoning her daughter, Cinnamon, to become a cabaret legend in Paris. Cinnamon carries the story through the 1940s and the 1960s Chicago busing, but here the novel unravels in a rush to wrap things up with too many characters and no time to develop them. This is a complex poetic treatise on race, culture, love, and family, the use of regional vernacular, dialect, and pure song, resulting in a provocative fictional history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Revered poet, playwright, and novelist Shange teams up with her award-winning playwright sister Bayeza in this encompassing historical saga of African American life. In its riveting dramatization of the promise of emancipation, the brutality of Reconstruction, the baroque cruelty of the Jim Crow era, all the way to the possibilities of the digital age, this bittersweet tale of seven generations in a family of mixed blood and musical genius weaves together essential historical facts and profound emotional truths. The postbellum exodus of Betty, a woman of spiritual powers, from a decimated South Carolina plantation––where she endured a tragic entanglement with the owner and gave life to children of unusual beauty, talent, and determination—launches this engrossing novel. Each character is magnetizing––from Betty to her ambitious daughter Eudora to her renegade daughter Lizzie to brave Osceola to Cinnamon, Tokyo, and Liberty. Each setting, from Charleston to Harlem, is brilliantly realized, and each social convulsion, most strikingly the violence against black veterans of WWI, is intimately illuminated, while anguished conflicts erupt between men and women in shattering microcosms of larger societal crimes. With music as a sustaining force, Shange and Bayeza's epic of courage, improvisation, and transcendence is glorious in its scope, lyricism, and spectrum of yearnings, convictions, and triumphs. --Donna Seaman

More About the Author

Ntozake Shange, poet, novelist, playwright, and performer, wrote the Broadway-produced and Obie Award-winning For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. She has also written numerous works of fiction, including Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo, Betsy Brown, and Liliane.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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It was hard for me to read and follow due to the writing style and it seemed to be too descriptive at times.
L. Romich
All that being said, the very depth and breadth of this novel is amazing in and of itself, and the writing skill and compelling characters make it worth a read.
J. P.
In fact, color and music give solid structure to this very unique novel of African-American history and culture.
Evelyn A. Getchell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn A. Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the enduring tradition of great African-American literature reminiscent of such luminary women writers as Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, sisters Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza have blended their voices to sing as one in co-authorship of a brilliant kaleidoscope of heritage and culture ~ Some Sing, Some Cry: A Novel.

Never do the authors miss a beat in this factual and fictional account of African-American life spanning seven generations of the Mayfield family. With dialogue which is authentic and convincing and often capturing the innermost thoughts of its colorful characters, the authors deliver a compelling narrative in a single harmonious voice and not once does that voice stray off key. Theirs is a powerful story driven by the rhythm of life, beginning at the emancipation of slavery and proceeding until the present day 21st century. The theme is exemplary ~ "Slavery leaves telling marks lasting generations, still every word out of our mouths is a song."

From the very first pages on, music pulsates from every beautifully composed sentence. The prose is so lyrical it sings. The first chapter, vastly rhapsodic and lushly poetic, is a rainbow of perfectly chosen words in celebration of color and every rich hue of blackness. I was compelled to immediately reread Chapter One over and over again for the shear beauty of its language ~ the sweeping poetic prose is so arresting.

In fact, color and music give solid structure to this very unique novel of African-American history and culture. For me it is was like reading the libretto of a contemporary lyric opera; I thought of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess often.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By MarvelousMarla VINE VOICE on September 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book reads more like a collection of short stories than a cohesive tale about a family. My main problem is that as soon as a character reaches a crucial point in her life, the story jumps ahead by years and decades and moves on to someone else. It happens with Eudora in a couple of instances but most notably after her husband leaves her. She was in dire straights, but we hear nothing about her again until her oldest daughter returns to South Carolina for a funeral. It happens with Eudora's daugher Lizzie who flees the south in hopes of making it in show business only to wind up living with relatives in New York while waiting for her big break. Lizzie comes face to face with a man from her past who hurt her and her family immeasurably, so she leaves the country. We hear bits and pieces about what happened to her once she left America, but it's not nearly enough. The same thing happens with Lizzie's daughter Cinnamon. Cinnamon goes from being enrolled in a graduate opera program at Julliard to being a married woman with three children with very little exploration of how her life evolved.

The writing is very good and the stories are interesting, but I do think that the book suffers for trying to combine all these characters into one book. Also, the ending is pretty anti-climactic.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By delicateflower152 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Some Sing, Some Cry" follows one family from the end of slavery through the events of the Civil Rights Movement and ends in the current century. The novel's text provides a somewhat simplified, yet comprehensive overview of the reasons for the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on lives of both U.S. citizens and expatriates. Music and song play an important role in the lives of the characters - like an aria, some individuals will soar above the obstacles they encounter. However, other characters will withdraw into themselves, shedding tears and giving up on the future, on their dreams, and on life.

Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza have created interesting female characters whose strengths and weaknesses affect not only the particular individual's life, but also the lives of others with whom they come into contact. Bette Mayfield, the family matriarch, influences her family through the seven generations by virtue of her courage and determination. Eudora, her daughter, was initially a strong presence in the story, but was lost as the narrative progressed into her own daughter's lives. Reintroduced in a latter section of the book as a successful businesswoman, it would have been interesting to learn more of the direction her life had taken and of the obstacles she had overcome in order to achieve her success.

Eula Walker, Eudora's daughter, abandons her dreams of an education for family reasons and provides the reader with an overall sense of her resignation to life's circumstances. Her life reflects, in many ways, those of other African-American women whose potential was extinguished by societal dictates.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JenP on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So much about this book borders on wonderful...I wish I could be more enthusiastic in this review. But for every positive, there's a wistful negative. While the characters are strong and likeable, the narrative jumps around so much that you barely have a chance to connect to them before they are sidelined and someone else comes along to take over the main story line - and it happens throughout the book. I loved the first half of the book. By the middle of the second half, I was so confused, I wished I had a family tree to keep everyone straight.

Still, the book is very insightful and as a white woman, it was interesting and painful to see the world through the eyes of black former slaves and their descendants -- and there are some wonderful historical nuggets that I took from it. It's certainly not the worst book I've ever read, but it could have been one of the best. I do think it needed massive editing before going to print; about a hundred pages less and it would have been a tightly-woven saga.
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