Ntozake Shange

b. 1948

Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams into an upper middle-class African-American family. Her father was an Air Force surgeon and her mother a psychiatric social worker. Cultural icons like Dizzie Gillepsie, Miles Davis and W.E.B. DuBois were regular guests in the Williams home. Shange attended Barnard College and UCLA, earning both a bachelors and master degree in American Studies. Shange’s college years were difficult, however, and frustrated and hurt after separating from her first husband, she attempted suicide several times before focusing her rage against the limitations society imposes on black women. While earning a master’s degree, she reaffirmed her personal strength based on a self-determined identity and took her African name, which means “she who comes with her own things” and she “who walks like a lion.” Since then she has sustained a triple career as an educator, a performer/director, and a writer whose work draws heavily on her experiences of being a black female in America.

Shange is perhaps most famous for her play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1975). A unique blend of poetry, music, dance and drama called a “choreopoem,” it “took the theatre world by storm” in 1975 noted Jacqueline Trescott in the Washington Post, as it “became an electrifying Broadway hit and provoked heated exchanges about the relationships between black men and women...Its form—seven women on the stage dramatizing poetry—was a refreshing slap at the traditional, one-two-three-act structures.” Mel Gussow, writing in the New York Times, stated that “Miss Shange was a pioneer in terms of her subject matter: the fury of black women at their double subjugation in white male America.” The play uses female dancers to dramatize poems that recall encounters with their classmates, lovers, rapists, abortionists, and latent killers. The women survive abuse and disappointment and come to recognize in each other the promise of a better future. The play received both enthusiastic reviews and criticism for its portrayal of African-American men. However, “Shange’s poems aren’t war cries,” Jack Kroll wrote in a Newsweek review of the Public Theatre production of For Colored Girls. “They’re outcries filled with a controlled passion against the brutality that blasts the lives of ‘colored girls’—a phrase that in her hands vibrates with social irony and poetic beauty. These poems are political in the deepest sense, but there’s no dogma, no sentimentality, no grinding of false mythic axes.” Critic Edith Oliver of the New Yorker remarked, “The evening grows in dramatic power, encompassing, it seems, every feeling and experience a woman has ever had; strong and funny, it is entirely free of the rasping earnestness of most projects of this sort. The verses and monologues that constitute the program have been very well chosen—contrasting in mood yet always subtly building.”

Shange’s next productions, A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty (1977), Boogie Woogie Landscapes (1977), Spell No. 7 (1979)  and Black and White Two Dimensional Planes (1979) impressed critics with their poetic quality. As Richard Eder wrote in the New York Times, “more than anything else, she [Shange] is a troubadour. She declares her fertile vision of the love and pain between black women and black men in outbursts full of old malice and young cheerfulness. They are short outbursts, song-length; her characters are perceived in flashes, in illuminating vignettes.” Don Nelson, writing in the New York Daily News, deemed Spell No. 7 “black magic .... The word that best describes Shange’s works, which are not plays in the traditional sense, is power.”

Shange’s poetry, like her drama, is distinctively original. Washington Post Book World critic Harriet Gilbert praised Shange’s third book of poetry, Nappy Edges (1978), saying, “Nothing that Shange writes is ever entirely unreadable, springing, as it does, from such an intense honesty, from so fresh an awareness of the beauty of sound and of vision, from such mastery of words, from such compassion, humor and intelligence.” Alice H.G. Phillips described Shange’s style in the Times Literary Supplement: “She lets go with verbal runs and trills, mixes in syncopations, spins out evocative hanging phrases, variations on themes and refrains. Rarely does she come to a full stop, relying instead on line breaks, extra space breaking up a line, and/ or oblique strokes.” In her poetry, Shange does take many liberties with the conventions of written English, using nonstandard spellings and punctuation. Explaining her “lower-case letters, slashes, and spelling,” Shange has said that “poems where all the first letters are capitalized” bore her; “also, I like the idea that letters dance. ... I need some visual stimulation, so that reading becomes not just a passive act and more than an intellectual activity, but demands rigorous participation.” Her idiosyncratic punctuation assures her “that the reader is not in control of the process.” She wants her words in print to engage the reader in a kind of struggle, and not be “whatever you can just ignore.” The spellings, she said, “reflect language as I hear it. ... The structure is connected to the music I hear beneath the words.”

Shange plays with conventions in her novels as well. Her first full-length novel, Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo (1982), is an admixture of narrative, recipes, letters, poetry and magic spells. Wrote Doris Grumbach in the Washington Post Book World, “Shange is primarily a poet…But her voice in this novel is entirely her own, an original, spare and primary-colored sound that will remind readers of Jean Toomer’s Cane.“ Shange’s other novels include Betsey Brown (1985) and Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter (1995). Liliane again finds the author exploring the issues of race and gender in contemporary America in innovative prose. As Clarence Major noted in the Washington Post Book World, the story is presented “through twelve monologue-performance pieces narrated in turn by [Liliane] and her friends and lovers.” Shange “offers a daring portrait of a black woman artist re-creating herself out of social and psychological chaos,” remarked Kelly Cherry in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Cherry added, “Shange has written a novel that manages to be both risky and stylish.”

In The Love Space Demands, a choreopoem published in 1991, Shange returned to the blend of music, dance, poetry and drama that characterized For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide. “I’ve gone back to being more like myself,” Shange explained to Eileen Myles in the Voice Literary Supplement. Described by Myles as “a sexy, discomfiting, energizing, revealing, occasionally smug, fascinating kind of book,” The Love Space Demands includes poems on celibacy and sexuality and on black women’s sense of abandonment by black men. The lead poem of the book, “irrepressibly bronze, beautiful and mine,” was inspired by photographs of black and white gay men taken by Robert Mapplethorpe, author of The Black Book (1986), to which Shange had provided the forward. 

Shange’s The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African-American Family (2004), with photographs by the Kamoinge Workshop, is another example of her multi-media approach to poetry. The volume pays homage to The Sweet Flypaper of Life, which was published in 1955 by poet Langston Hughes and photographer Roy DeCarava. The Hughes and DeCarava edition, renowned for portraying the lives of African Americans in mid-20th century Harlem, features poems paired with photographs. Shange’s volume follows the same format but expands the theme into a broader exploration of the African-American experience. Critics, however, again gave Shange’s work mixed reviews. Black Issues Book Review contributor Patricia Spears Jones complained that Shange’s poems “directly respond to the photographs in such a manner that they feel more like journalism than poetry.” Yet Booklist reviewer Janet St. John responded to this issue in very different terms, stating that the poems and images are “inherently intertwined and equally expressive.”

Shange has also published essay collections, including See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays, and Accounts 1976-1983 (1984) and If I Can Cook You Know God Can (1999). The latter is full of conversational essays that take the reader to the tables of African Americans, Nicaraguans, Londoners, Barbadoans, Brazilians, and Africans. A Booklist reviewer noted that the recipes are interwoven with a “fervent, richly impassioned chronicle of African-American experience” that examines political turmoil and relates “how connections are made beyond issues of class or skin color.” In addition to poetry, novels, essays, and screenplays, Shange has taken on the field of children’s literature with the publication of four books for children: Whitewash (1997), the tribute to Mohammed Ali Float Like a Butterfly (2002), Ellington Was Not a Street (2003), and Daddy Says (2003).  

Shange also edited The Beacon Best of 1999, a collection of poems, short stories, and essays written by lesser-known men and women of color. Shange defines the work of writers she profiled in Beacon’s Best as “artful glimpses of life at the end of the twentieth century,” which perhaps also describes Shange’s work at its most acclaimed and creative.

 

[Updated 2010]

Career

Writer, performer, and teacher. Faculty member in women's studies, California State College, 1973-75, Sonoma Mills College, 1975, University of California Extension, 1972-75, City College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, 1975, Douglass College, New Brunswick, NJ, 1978; University of Houston, Houston, TX, associate professor of drama, 1983-2001; University of Florida, professor, African American Studies Program and the Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research, 2000—. Visiting professor at DePaul University, visiting artist at Brown University, artist in residence, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and creative writing instructor, City College of New York. Lecturer at Douglass College, 1978, and at many other institutions, including Yale University, Howard University, Detroit Institute of Arts, and New York University. Dancer with Third World Collective, Raymond Sawyer's Afro-American Dance Company, Sounds in Motion, West Coast Dance Works, and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (Shange's own dance company); has appeared in Broadway and off-Broadway productions of her own plays, including For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf and Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon. Director of productions, including The Mighty Gents, produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival's Mobile Theatre, 1979, A Photograph: A Study in Cruelty, produced in Houston's Equinox Theatre, 1979, and June Jordan's Lovers-in-Motion, Houston, 1979, The Issue and The Spirit of Sojourner Truth, 1979. Actress in plays, including The Lady in Orange, New York, 1976, Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon, New York, 1977, and Mouths, New York, 1981. Has given many poetry readings.

Bibliography

POETRY

  • Melissa and Smith, Bookslinger (St. Paul, MN), 1976.
  • Natural Disasters and other Festive Occasions (prose and poems), Heirs International (San Francisco, CA), 1977.
  • A Photograph: Lovers in Motion: A Drama, S. French (New York, NY), 1977.
  • Nappy Edges, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1978.
  • Some Men (poems), 1981.
  • A Daughter's Geography, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.
  • From Okra to Greens, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1984.
  • Ridin' the Moon in Texas: Word Paintings (responses to art in prose and poetry), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.
  • The Love Space Demands: A Continuing Saga, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.
  • Three Pieces, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.
  • I Live in Music, edited by Linda Sunshine, illustrated by Romare Bearden, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1994.
  • The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African-American Family, photographs by the Kamoinge Workshop, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2004.

NOVELS

  • Sassafrass, Shameless Hussy Press (San Lorenzo, CA), 1976, revised edition published as Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1982.
  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Shameless Hussy Press (San Lorenzo, CA), 1976.
  • Betsey Brown, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985.
  • Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
  • If I Can Cook You Know God Can, Beacon Press, 1998.

PLAYS

  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf: A Choreopoem, (first produced in New York, NY, at Studio Rivbea, July 7, 1975; produced off-Broadway at Anspacher Public Theatre, 1976; produced on Broadway at Booth Theatre, September 15, 1976), Shameless Hussy Press (San Lorenzo, CA), 1975, revised edition, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1976.
  • A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty (poem-play; first produced off-Broadway at Public Theatre, December 21, 1977; revised and produced as A Photograph: Lovers in Motion in Houston, TX, at the Equinox Theatre, November, 1979), S. French (New York, NY), 1981.
  • (With Thulani Nkabinde and Jessica Hagedorn) Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon, first produced in New York, NY, at Public Theatre Cabaret, December 18, 1977.
  • From Okra to Greens: A Different Kinda Love Story; A Play with Music and Dance (first produced in New York, NY, at Barnard College, November, 1978), S. French (New York, NY), 1985, revised edition published as Mouths, The Kitchen, (New York, NY), 1981.
  • Boogie Woogie Landscapes (in Poetry at the Public series; produced at Shakespeare Festival (New York, NY), 1978; revised as Black and White Two-Dimensional Planes, produced at Sounds in Motion Studio Works, New York, February, 1979 ; revised and produced on Broadway, at Symphony Space Theater, 1979; produced in Washington, DC, at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 1980), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1978.
  • Spell No.7: A Geechee Quick Magic Trance Manual (produced on Broadway at Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, July 15, 1979), published as Spell No.7: A Theatre Piece in Two Acts, S. French (New York, NY), 1981.
  • (Adapter) Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children, first produced off-Broadway at the Public Theatre, April, 1980.
  • Three Pieces: Spell No.7; A Photograph: Lovers in Motion; Boogie Woogie Landscapes, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1981.
  • It Has Not Always Been This Way: A Choreopoem, (revision of From Okra to Greens: A Different Kinda Love Story), in collaboration with the Sounds in Motion Dance Company, Symphony Space Theater, (New York, NY), 1981.
  • Triptych and Bocas: A Performance Piece, (revision of From Okra to Greens: A Different Kinda Love Story) Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles, CA), 1982.
  • Three for a Full Moon [and] Bocas, first produced in Los Angeles, CA, at the Mark Taper Forum Lab, Center Theatre, April 28, 1982.
  • (Adapter) Willy Russell, Educating Rita (play), first produced in Atlanta, GA, by Alliance Theatre Company, 1982.
  • Three Views of Mt. Fuji (play), first produced at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, June, 1987, produced in New York, NY, at the New Dramatists, October, 1987.
  • Betsey Brown: A Rhythm and Blues Musical, produced in Philadelphia, PA, at American Music Theater Festival, 1989.
  • The Love Space Demands: A Continuing Saga, produced in New Brunswick, NJ, at Crossroads Theater, March 1992; in Philadelphia, PA, at Painted Bride Art Center, 1993.
  • Whitewash (video screenplay), First Run Features, 1994.

Author of the operetta Carrie, produced in 1981. Has written for a television special starring Diana Ross, and appears in a documentary about her own work for WGBH-TV (Boston, MA).

PROSE AND ESSAYS

  • See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays and Accounts, 1976-1983, Momo’s Press (San Francisco, CA), 1984.
  • (Author of foreword) Robert Mapplethorpe, The Black Book, St. Martin’s Press (New York, NY), 1986.
  • Plays, One, Methuen (London, England), 1992.
  • (Contributor) Jules Feiffer, Selected from Contemporary American Plays: An Anthology, Literacy Volunteers of New York City (New York, NY), 1990.
  • (Author of preface) Francoise Kourilsky and Catherine Temerson, editors, Plays by Women, Book Two: An International Anthology, Ubu Repertory Theater Publications (New York, NY), 1994.
  • If I Can Cook You Know God Can, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1999.
  • (Editor) The Beacon Best of 1999: Creative Writing by Women and Men of All Colors, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 1999.

FOR CHILDREN

  • Whitewash, illustrated by Michael Sporn, Walker (New York, NY), 1997.
  • Float Like a Butterfly: Muhammad Ali, the Man Who Could Float Like a Butterfly and Sting Like a Bee, Jump at the Sun (New York, NY), 2002.
  • Ellington Was Not a Street, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
  • Daddy Says, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

 

Contributor to anthologies, including Love's Fire: Seven New Plays Inspired by Seven Shakespearean Sonnets, introduction by Mark Lamos, Quill, (New York, NY), 1998; "May Your Days Be Merry and Bright" and Other Christmas Stories by Women, edited by Susan Koppelman, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1988; New Plays for the Black Theatre, edited by Woodie King, Jr., Third World Press (Chicago, IL), 1989; Breaking Ice: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Fiction, edited by Terry McMillan, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1990; Yellow Silk: Erotic Arts and Letters, edited by Lily Pond and Richard Russo, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 1990; Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology, edited by Margaret Bushby, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1992; Erotique Noire—Black Erotica, edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis, Reginald Martin, and Roseann P. Bell, Anchor (New York, NY), 1992; Resurgent: New Writing by Women, edited by Lou Robinson and Camille Norton, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1992; Wild Women Don't Wear No Blues: Black Women Writers on Love, Men, and Sex, edited by Marita Golden, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993; and Moon Marked and Touched by Sun: Plays by African-American Women, edited by Sydne Mahone, Theater Communications Group (New York, NY), 1994. Contributor to periodicals, including Black Scholar, Third World Women, Ms., and Yardbird Reader.

Further Reading

BOOKS

  • Adell, Sandra, editor, Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Culture, Volume 5: African American Culture, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.
  • Andrews, William L., Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris, editors, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.
  • Arata, Esther Spring, editor, More Black American Playwrights, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 1978.
  • Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 9, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
  • Berney, K.A., editor, Contemporary Dramatists, St. James Press (London, England), 1993.
  • Berney, K.A., editor, Contemporary American Dramatists, St. James Press (London, England), 1994.
  • Berney, K.A., editor, Contemporary Women Dramatists, 5th edition, St. James Press (London, England), 1994.
  • Betsko, Kathleen, and Rachel Koenig, editors, Interviews with Contemporary Women Playwrights, Beech Tree Books, 1987.
  • Black Literature Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
  • Brater, Enoch, editor, Feminine Focus: The New Women Playwrights, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.
  • Chevalier, Tracy, editor, Contemporary Poets, 5th edition, St. James Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.
  • Christ, Carol P., Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1980.
  • Christian, Barbara T., Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers, Pergamon Press (New York, NY), 1985.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit), Volume 8, 1978, Volume 25, 1983, Volume 38, 1986, Volume 74, 1993.
  • Coven, Brenda, American Women Dramatists of the Twentieth Century, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 1982.
  • Davis, Thadious M., and Trudier Harris, editors, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 38: Afro-American Writers after 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985.
  • Drama Criticism, Volume 3, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.
  • Easthope, Antony, editor, Contemporary Poetry Meets Modern Theory, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Canada), 1991.
  • Geis, Deborah R., "Distraught at Laughter: Monologue in Shange's Theatre Pieces," in Feminine Focus: New Playwrights, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), pp. 210-225.
  • Green, Carol Hurd, and Mary Grimley Mason, editors, American Women Writers, Volume 5: Supplement, Continuum Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
  • Halloway, Karla F.C., Moorings and Metaphors: Figures of Culture and Gender in Black Women's Literature, Rutgers University Press (Brunswick, NJ), 1992.
  • Hart, Lynda, Making a Spectacle: Feminist Essays on Contemporary Women's Theatre, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1989.
  • Hine, Darlene Clark, editor, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Carlson Publishing (Brooklyn, NY), 1993.
  • Kester-Shelton, Pamela, editor, Feminist Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
  • Kirkpatrick, D.L., editor, Contemporary Dramatists, 4th edition, St. James Press (Chicago, IL), 1988.
  • Lester, Neal A., Ntozake Shange: A Critical Study of the Plays, Garland (New York, NY), 1995.
  • Magill, Frank N., Critical Survey of Drama, revised edition, Salem Press (Pasadena, CA), 1994.
  • Magill, Frank N., Great Women Writers, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1994.
  • Magill, Frank N., Survey of American Literature, Marshall Cavendish (North Bellmore, NY), 1992.
  • Martin, Tucker, editor, Modern American Literature, Volume 6, third supplement, Continuum Publishing (New York, NY), 1997.
  • Modern American Literature, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.
  • Modern Black Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
  • Olaniyan, Tejumola, Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance: The Invention of Cultural Identities in African-American, and Caribbean Drama, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.
  • Page, James A., and Jae Min Roh, compilers, Selected Black American, African, and Caribbean Authors, 2nd edition, Libraries Unlimited (Littleton, CO), 1985.
  • Peck, David, editor, Identities and Issues in Literature, Salem Press (Pasadena, CA), 1997.
  • Pendergast, Tom and Sara Pendergast, editors, St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
  • Reinelt, Janelle, and Joseph Roach, Critical Theory and Performance, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1992.
  • Riggs, Thomas, editor, Contemporary Poets, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996
  • Riggs, Thomas, editor, Reference Guide to American Literature, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000
  • Robinson Lillian S., compiler and editor, Modern Women Writers, Continuum Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.
  • Schlueter, June, editor, Modern American Drama: The Female Canon, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990.
  • The Schomburg Center Guide to Black Literature, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.
  • Serafin, Steven R., editor, Encyclopedia of American Literature, Continuum Publishing (New York), 1999.
  • Shelton, Pamela L., editor, Contemporary Women Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
  • Smith, Valerie, Lea Baechler, and Walton Litz, African American Writers, Scribner (New York, NY), 1991.
  • Spradling, Mary Mace, editor, In Black and White, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980.
  • Squier, Susan Merrill, editor, Women Writers and the City: Essays in Feminist Literary Criticism, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 1984.
  • Stringer, Jenny, editor, The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
  • Tate, Claudia, editor, Black Women Writers at Work, Continuum (New York, NY), 1983.
  • Vaught, Jacqueline Brogan and Cordelia Chavez Candelaria, editors, Women Poets of the Americas: Toward a Pan-American Gathering, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1999.

PERIODICALS

  • African American Review, spring, 1992, Neal A. Lester, "Ntozake Shange," pp. 322-325; summer, 1992, and Neal A. Lester, "Shange's Men: For Colored Girls revisited, and Movement Beyond," pp. 319-328.
  • American Black Review, September, 1983; March, 1986.
  • Black American Literature Forum, winter, 1979, Henry Blackwell, "An Interview with Ntozake Shange," pp. 134-138; summer, 1981, Sandra Hollin Flowers, "Colored Girls: Textbook for the Eighties," p. 51; summer, 1983, Sandra L. Richards, review of Spell No. 7, pp. 74-75; fall, 1990; winter, 1990, Neal A. Lester, "At the Heart of Shange's Feminism: An Interview," pp. 717-730.
  • Black Issues Book Review, November-December, 2002, Clarence V. Reynolds, review of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Fairy Tales," p. 42; March-April, 2003, review of Daddy Says, p. 66; November-December, 2004, Patricia Spears Jones, review of The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African-American Family, p. 46.
  • Black Scholar, March, 1979; October, 1979, Robert Staples, "The Myth of Black Macho: A Response to Angry Black Feminists," pp. 24-33; March, 1981; December, 1982; July, 1985; winter, 1996, p. 68; summer, 1996, p. 67.
  • Booklist, April 15, 1987; May 15, 1991; January 1, 1998; October 15, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of The Beacon Best of 1999, p. 410; June 1, 2001, review of Betsey Brown, p. 1837; March 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Daddy Says, p. 1317; October 15, 2004, Janet St. John, review of The Sweet Breath of Life, p. 382.
  • Boston Review, November 14, 1994, Laurel Elkind, review of Lilliane: Resurrection of the Daughter, p. 38.
  • Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1982.
  • Chicago Tribune Book World, July 1, 1979; September 8, 1985.
  • Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 1976; October 8, 1982; May 2, 1986.
  • College Language Association Journal, June, 1996, Jane Splawn, "Rites of Passage in the Writing of Ntozake Shange: The Poetry, Drama, and Novels," p. 1989; June 1986, Jane Splawn, "New World Consciousness in the Poetry of Ntozake Shange and June Jordan: Two African-American Women's Response to Expansionism in the Third World."
  • Cue, June 26, 1976.
  • Detroit Free Press, October 30, 1978; October 30, 1979, Laura Berman, "The Last Angry Woman? Playwright-Poet Isn't Running from the Rage That Inspires Her," p. C1.
  • Early Childhood Education Journal, fall, 1999, review of Whitewash, p. 36.
  • Entertainment Weekly, March 10, 1995, p. 65.
  • Essence, November, 1976; May, 1985, Marcia Ann Gillespie, "Ntozake Shange Talks with Marcia Ann Gillespie," pp. 122-123; June, 1985; August, 1991.
  • Freedomways, 1976, Jean Carey Bond, review of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, pp. 187-191.
  • Horizon, September, 1977.
  • Journal of American Culture, fall, 1987, Jean Strandness, review of Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo, p. 11.
  • Journal of Ethnic Studies, spring, 1978, Erskine Peters, "Some Tragic Propensities of Ourselves: The Occasion of Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf," pp. 79-85.
  • Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1999, review of The Beacon Best of 1999, p. 69; September 1, 2002, review of Float Like a Butterfly: Muhammad Ali, the Man Who Could Float Like a Butterfly and Sting Like a Bee, p. 1320; December 1, 2002, review of Daddy Says, p. 1773.
  • Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, January, 1989.
  • Library Journal, May 1, 1987; October 15, 1999, review of The Beacon Best of 1999, p. 70.
  • Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1982; June 11, 1985; July 28, 1987.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 22, 1982; October 20, 1982; January 8, 1984; July 29, 1984; June 11, 1985; July 19, 1987; December 18, 1994, p. 12.
  • Massachussetts Review, autumn, 1981, Andrea Benton Rushing, "For Colored Girls, Suicide or Struggle," pp. 539-550; winter, 1987, Brenda Lyons, "Interview with Ntozake Shange," pp. 687-696.
  • MELUS, fall, 1994, Barbara Frey Waxman, "Dancing out of Form, Dancing into Self: Genre and Metaphor in Marshall, Shange, and Walker," pp. 91-107.
  • Modern Drama, March, 1995, Timothy Murray, "Screening the Camera's Eye: Black and White Confrontations of Technological Representations," pp. 110-124; 1986, P. Jane Splawn, "Change the Joke[r] and Slip the Yoke: Boal's Joker System in Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls and Spell No.
    7,
    " pp. 386-398.
  • Mother Jones, January-February, 1995, p. 69.
  • Ms., September, 1976; December, 1977, "Ntozake Shange Interviews Herself"; June, 1985; June, 1987.
  • Newsday, August 22, 1976.
  • New Statesman, October 4, 1985.
  • New Statesman and Society, May 19, 1995, p. 37.
  • Newsweek, June 14, 1976; July 30, 1979.
  • New York Daily News, July 16, 1979.
  • New Yorker, June 14, 1976; August 2, 1976; January 2, 1978.
  • New York Times, June 16, 1976; December 22, 1977; June 4, 1979; June 8, 1979; July 16, 1979; July 22, 1979; May 14, 1980; June 15, 1980, Frank Rich, " Mother Courage Transplanted," p. D5; January 1, 1995, Valerie Sayers, "A Life in Collage," p. 38; September 3, 1995, Andrea Stevens, "For Colored Girls May Be for the Ages," p. H5.
  • New York Times Book Review, June 25, 1979; July 16, 1979; October 21, 1979; September 12, 1982; May 12, 1985; April 6, 1986; January 1, 1995, p. 6; October 15, 1995, p. 36; February 25, 1996, p. 32.
  • New York Times Magazine, May 1, 1983.
  • Phylon, fall, 1987, Elizabeth Brown-Guillory, "Black Women Playwrights: Exorcising Myths," pp. 229-239.
  • Plays and Players, June, 1985, Carole Woddis, review of Spell No. 7, pp. 230-248.
  • Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1985; November 14, 1994, review of I Live in Music, p. 65; January 1, 1996, p. 69; September 20, 1999, review of The Beacon Best of 1999, p. 65; September 16, 2002, review of Float Like a Butterfly, p. 68; August 2, 2004, review of The Sweet Breath of Life, p. 66.
  • Saturday Review, February 18, 1978; May-June, 1985.
  • School Library Journal, February, 2003, Carol A. Edwards, review of Daddy Says, p. 148.
  • Social Studies, January, 2001, review of Whitewash, p. 39.
  • Studies in American Drama, 1989, "The Poetry of a Moment: Politics and the Open Forum in the Drama of Ntozake Shange," pp. 91-101, Neal A. Lester, "An Interview with Ntozake Shange," pp. 42-66.
  • Time, June 14, 1976; July 19, 1976; November 1, 1976.
  • Times (London, England), April 21, 1983.
  • Times Literary Supplement, December 6, 1985; April 15-21, 1988.
  • Umoja, spring, 1980, Linda Lee Talbert, "Ntozake Shange: Scarlet Woman and Witch/Poet," pp. 5-10.
  • Variety, July 25, 1979.
  • Village Voice, August 16, 1976, Michelle Wallace, "For Colored Girls, the Rainbow Is Not Enough," pp. 108-109; July 23, 1979; June 18, 1985.
  • Voice Literary Supplement, August, 1991; September, 1991.
  • Washington Post, June 12, 1976; June 29, 1976; February 23, 1982; June 17, 1985.
  • Washington Post Book World, October 15, 1978; July 19, 1981; August 22, 1982; August 5, 1984; February 5, 1995, p. 4.
  • Wilson Library Bulletin, October, 1990.
  • Women's Review of Books, November, 1985, Evelyn C. White "Growing Up Black," p. 11.
  • World Literature Today, summer, 1995, Deirdre Neilen, review of Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter, p. 584.

ONLINE

  • Academy of American Poets Web site, http://www.poets.org/poets/ (February 21, 2001), "Ntozake Shange."
  • African American Literature Book Club Web site, http://aalbc.com/ (November 18, 2003), "Ntozake Shange."
  • Open Book Systems Web site, http://archives.obsus.com/obs/ (November 18, 2003), "Ntozake Shange."
  • University of Florida Web site, http://web.wst.ufl.edu/ (November 18, 2003), "Ntozake Shange."
  • Women of Color, Women of Words Web site, http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~cybers/shange2.html/ (November 18, 2003), "Ntozake Shange."

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LIFE SPAN 1948–

Biography

Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams into an upper middle-class African-American family. Her father was an Air Force surgeon and her mother a psychiatric social worker. Cultural icons like Dizzie Gillepsie, Miles Davis and W.E.B. DuBois were regular guests in the Williams home. Shange attended Barnard College and UCLA, earning both a bachelors and master degree in American Studies. Shange’s college years were difficult, . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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