Award-winning writer Ntozake Shange and 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 an 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.
"A rich mix of storytelling and African-American history . . . Engaging from start to finish."—The New York Times Book Review "Solid gold . . . Ntozake Shange and her sister, Ifa Bayeza, partner to write a lyrical and epic novel."—Ebony "Vibrant . . . Some Sing, Some Cry is Shange and Bayeza at their poetic best."—Essence “If there are shoulders modern African American women's literature stand upon they belong to Ntozake Shange who revolutionized theater and literature with her iconic work for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf in the 1970's. Any of us writing today are inheritors of her genius. Some Sing, Some Cry will show her to be as potent and irrepressible a force as she was thirty years ago.”—Sapphire, author of Push
“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.”—Annette Gordon-Reed, author of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family "Lyrical . . . Think of it as Roots with a treble clef—a confident, lively account of love, art, and what falls between."—Kirkus Reviews "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."—Booklist (starred review) "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 . . . 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."—Publishers Weekly
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.