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Summary and book reviews of Some Sing, Some Cry by Ntozake Shange

Some Sing, Some Cry

A Novel

by Ntozake Shange, Ifa Bayeza

Some Sing, Some Cry
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2010, 576 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2011, 576 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Book Summary

Shange and Bayeza give us a monumental story of a family and of America, of songs and why we have to sing them, of home and of heartbreak, of the past and of the future, bright and blazing ahead.

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 the mainland. With her granddaughter, Eudora, in tow, she heads to Charleston. There, they carve out lives for themselves as fortune-teller and seamstress. Dora will marry, the Mayfield line will grow, and we will follow them on a journey through the watershed events of America's troubled, vibrant history - from Reconstruction to both World Wars, from the Harlem Renaissance to Vietnam and the modern day. Shange and Bayeza give us a monumental story of a family and of America, of songs and why we have to sing them, of home and of heartbreak, of the past and of the future, bright and blazing ahead.

Some Sing, Some Cry
1

The first orange light of sunrise left a flush of rose and lavender on Betty's hands as she fingered the likenesses of her children. There were tears she was holding back and cocks crowing, as well as her granddaughter's shouts, "Nana, you ready?" Betty sighed and closed the album reluctantly. Time had come for the last of the Mayfields to leave Sweet Tamarind, the plantation they'd known as home for generations. Talk was some carpetbaggers had bought all the land and paid the white Mayfields a smidgeon of what it was worth and left the poor blacks high and dry. A rough white man, whip and rifle in hand, had passed by a few days before, warning Betty and hers to be off the land by evening of this very day. So off they planned to be, not wanting to know another moment of the whites' wrath. The colored Mayfields were familiar with what that meant, and with no slavery to hold them back they were off to Charleston, where others awaited them.

There was nothing ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Thorough dedication to their title theme transforms Some Sing, Some Cry into an unusually textured examination of mothers and daughters, as well as the shifting currents that guide them... For all the social brutality it exposes, and for all its intimate, more domestic griefs, Some Sing, Some Cry is not intended as a dark retrospective. In the midst of cruel circumstances, the women reinvent themselves with verve, maintaining a spirit of creativity as well as their own interpretations of dignity.   (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Think of it as Roots with a treble clef - a confident, lively account of love, art and what falls between.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Library Journal

This family epic is likely to appeal to readers who love Roots and big generational novels that reconstruct African American history. With its depiction of strong, talented women, the novel may also be enjoyed by feminist readers.

Booklist

Starred Review. 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.

Author Blurb Annette Gordon-Reed, author of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
In this epic saga, the sister-sister author combination of Bayeza and Shange offers a richly detailed and boldly colored account of one family's experience in slavery and its legacies for the generations that followed. Some Sing, Some Cry is both moving and arresting.

Reader Reviews

Barbara Sanders

I Sang! I Cried!
A triumph! What a stunning musical mosaic, an unforgettable symmetry of riveting characters who bring to life the courage, the redemption, the amazing perseverance of The Struggle For Freedom at all costs! I could not put this book down. Thank You...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Gullah Culture

The Gullah (known as Geechee in Georgia and Florida) are descendants of West African slaves, whose numbers today range from 200,000-500,000. The Gullah region traditionally extends along the coast from SE North Carolina, through Georgia to Northern Florida, including the Lowcountry region and its Sea Islands (see map at bottom left).

Geographic isolation, a marshy, malarial environment that often led to absentee plantation owners, and the fostering of close community ties allowed a distinct creole culture to develop. After the Civil War and emancipation, the Gullah's isolation increased as few outsiders were attracted to the area, and labor issues and a series of devastating hurricanes caused rice planters to abandon their farms....

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