Some Sing, Some Cry: A Novel

Some Sing, Some Cry: A Novel - 'Ntozake Shange',  'Ifa Bayeza' 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 also reviewed: gospel, jazz, R&B, swing, bebop AND classical music. All the musical top names are sited. You cannot do all of this in depth. On top of all the names and historical events you follow a family. Is this a story about a family, where we are to care for all the characters, aunts and uncles and grandparents and generation after generation of children? What author can pull all this off? I loved Lizzie. The author really brought her personality to life for me, but this did not happen with any other character. When I was living life with Lizzie that is when I loved the book. The things she said!!!!

The book is written by two sisters. They split the book into eight sections, each writing four. I did not notice a difference in the writing! Ntozake Shange had several strokes and had to stop for five years, while her sister continued, but she liked to do thorough historical research and trips to the places where the story is set: Harlem, Chicago, Paris, and Charleston. Charleston breathed and maybe Harlem too, but certainly not Paris! Both sisters are playwrights. Reading this book is like going to the theater. You see, hear and even smell through the depiction of foods…….but you don’t get under the skin of the characters or a deep understanding of history. You get a smattering. Oh yeah, drugs are thrown in too! The picture had to be accurate.

The audiobook is narrated by Robin Miles. Many, many songs are sung and for most she does an excellent job, BUT some went wrong. Classical music is not her forte. Southern and Irish dialects she masters superbly, but p-l-e-a-s-e her French is just not up to mark. And she does not successfully imitate Edith Piaf! So there we are in France during WW2. In one chapter the Résistance is “covered”. Do you understand? There is in every way too much included in this book. Nobody can pull all this off successfully.

I still liked the book! I loved the part centered on Lizzie. There is also a theme on the importance of family, which I enjoyed, of how mothers and daughters have SUCH a hard time communicating!

What is the book trying to say about Black-American music and in fact all music in general?

“Music is just another way of keepin up with livin. Nothin wrong with that!”(chapter 4)