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Shange, Ntozake 1948-

SHANGE, Ntozake 1948-

Personal

Name pronounced "En-to-zaki Shong-gay" born Paulette Linda Williams; October 18, 1948, in Trenton, NJ; name changed 1971; daughter of Paul T. (a surgeon) and Eloise (a psychiatric social worker and educator) Williams; married second husband, David Murray (a musician), July, 1977 (divorced); children: Savannah. Education: Barnard College, B.A. (with honors), 1970; University of Southern California, Los Angeles, M.A., 1973, and graduate study. Hobbies and other interests: Playing the violin.


Addresses

Home 231 North Third St., No. 119, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Offıce Department of Drama, University of Houston, University Park, 4800 Calhoun Rd., Houston, TX 77004.


Career

Writer, performer, and teacher. Faculty member in women's studies, California State College, Sonoma Mills College, and the University of California Extension, 1972-75; associate professor of drama, University of Houston, beginning in 1983; artist-in-residence, New Jersey State Council on the Arts; creative writing instructor, City College of New York. Lecturer at Douglass College, 1978, and at many other institutions, such as 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 several 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 The Issue and The Spirit of Sojourner Truth, 1979. Has given many poetry readings.


Member

Actors Equity, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Dramatists Guild, PEN American Center, Academy of American Poets, Poets and Writers Inc., Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press, New York Feminist Arts Guild, Writers' Guild.


Awards, Honors

NDEA fellow, 1973; Off-Broadway Award, Village Voice, Outer Critics Circle Award, Audience Development Committee Award, Mademoiselle Award, and Antoinette Perry, Grammy, and Academy award nominations, all 1977, all for For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf; Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop Award, 1978; Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, 1981, for Three Pieces; Guggenheim fellowship, 1981; Medal of Excellence, Columbia University, 1981; Off-Broadway Award, 1981, for Mother Courage and Her Children; Nori Eboraci Award, Barnard College, 1988; Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund writer's award, 1992; Paul Robeson Achievement Award, 1992; Arts and Cultural Achievement Award, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. (Pennsylvania chapter), 1992; Living Legend Award, National Black Theatre Festival, 1993; Claim Your Life Award, WDAS-AM/FM, 1993; Pew fellowship in fiction, 1993-94; City of Philadelphia Literature Prize, 1994; Black Theatre Network Winona Fletcher award, 1994; Monarch Merit Award, National Council for Culture and Art, Inc.; Pushcart Prize.


Writings

FOR CHILDREN

Whitewash (picture book), illustrated by Michael Sporn, Walker (New York, NY), 1997.

Float like a Butterfly (picture book), illustrated by Edel Rodriguez, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.

Daddy Says (young-adult novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

Ellington Was Not a Street (picture book), illustrated by Kadir Nelson, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.


PLAYS

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf: A Choreopoem (first produced in New York, NY, 1975; produced off-Broadway, then on Broadway, 1976), Shameless Hussy Press (San Lorenzo, CA), 1975, revised edition, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1976.

Boogie Woogie Landscapes (also see below; first produced in New York, NY, 1976), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1978.

A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty (poem-play; first produced off-Broadway, 1977; revised as A Photograph: Lovers in Motion [also see below] and produced in Houston, TX, 1979), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1981.

(With Thulani Nkabinde and Jessica Hagedorn) Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon, first produced in New York, NY, 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, 1978), Samuel French, 1985.

Spell #7: A Geechee Quick Magic Trance Manual (also see below; produced on Broadway, 1979), published as Spell #7: A Theatre Piece in Two Acts, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1981.

Black and White Two-dimensional Planes, first produced in New York, NY, 1979.

(Adapter) Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children, first produced off-Broadway, 1980.

Three Pieces: Spell #7; A Photograph: Lovers in Motion; Boogie Woogie Landscapes, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1981.
Three for a Full Moon [and] Bocas, first produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1982.

(Adapter) Willy Russell, Educating Rita, first produced in Atlanta, GA, 1982.

Three Views of Mt. Fuji, first produced at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 1987.

The Love Space Demands: A Continuing Saga (produced in London, England, 1992), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.


Contributor to Love's Fire: Seven New Plays Inspired by Shakespearean Sonnets, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998. Author of play Mouths and operetta Carrie, both produced in 1981. Has written for a television special starring Diana Ross.


POETRY

Melissa & Smith, Bookslinger (St. Paul, MN), 1976.

Natural Disasters and Other Festive Occasions (prose and poems), Heirs International (San Francisco, CA), 1977.

Nappy Edges, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1978.

A Daughter's Geography, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.

From Okra to Greens: Poems, Coffee House Press (St. Paul, MN), 1984.

Ridin' the Moon in Texas: Word Paintings (responses to art in prose and poetry), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.

I Live in Music (poem), 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, Atria (New York, NY), 2004.


NOVELS

Sassafrass (novella), Shameless Hussy Press (San Lorenzo, CA), 1976.

Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1982.

Betsey Brown, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985.

Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.


OTHER

See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays, and Accounts, 1976-1983, Momo's Press (San Francisco, CA), 1984.

If I Can Cook/You Know God Can (essays), Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1998.

(Editor) The Beacon Best of 1999: Creative Writing by Women and Men of All Colors, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1999.

Also author of Some Men (poems in a pamphlet that resembles a dance card), 1981. Work represented in anthologies, including "May Your Days Be Merry and Bright" and Other Christmas Stories by Women, edited by Susan Koppelman, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1988; 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; and Wild Women Don 't Wear No Blues: Black Women Writers on Love, Men, and Sex, edited by Marita Golden, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993. Author of preface to Plays by Women, Book Two: An International Anthology, Ubu Repertory Theater Publications (New York, NY), 1994. Contributor to periodicals, including Black Scholar, Third World Women, Ms., and Yardbird Reader.


Adaptations

A musical-operetta version of Shange's novel Betsey Brown was produced by Joseph Papp's Public Theater in 1986.


Sidelights

An accomplished poet and novelist, Ntozake Shange is best known for her play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. A unique blend of poetry, music, dance and drama called a "choreopoem," it was still being produced around the country decades after its debut in 1975 on Broadway. In the 1990s Shange expanded her writing and began publishing books for children and young adults, such as Daddy Says and Ellington Was Not a Street.

Born to a surgeon and an educator, Ntozake Shangeoriginally named Paulette Williamswas raised in a black middle-class family. Breaking out on her own after college proved difficult, as one by one, the roles she chose for herselfincluding war correspondent and jazz musicianwere dismissed by her parents as "no good for a woman," she told Stella Dong in a Publishers Weekly interview. She chose to become a writer because "there was nothing left." Frustrated and hurt after separating from her first husband, Shange attempted suicide several times before focusing her rage against the limitations society imposes on black women. While earning a master's degree in American studies from the University of Southern California, she took the African name meaning "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 in New York and Houston, and a writer whose works draw heavily on her experiences and the frustrations of being a black female in America.

Writing dramatic poetry became Shange's way to express her dissatisfaction with the role of black women in society. Joining with musicians and the choreographer-dancer Paula Moss, she created improvisational works comprised of poetry, music, and dance that were performed in bars in San Francisco and New York. When Moss and Shange moved to New York City, they presented For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide at a Soho jazz loft, the Studio Rivbea. Director Oz Scott saw the show and with his help the work was performed in bars on the Lower East Side. Impressed by one of these, producer Woodie King, Jr., joined Scott to stage the choreopoem off-Broadway at the New Federal Theatre, where it ran successfully from November 1975, to the following June. Then Joseph Papp became the show's producer at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Anspacher Public Theatre. From there, it moved to the Booth Theatre uptown.

In For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, poems dramatized by female dancers recall encounters with classmates, lovers, rapists, abortionists, and latent killers. The women survive the abuses and disappointments put upon them by the men in their lives and come to recognize in each other, dressed in the colors of Shange's personal rainbow, the promise of a better future. In unison, at the end, they declare, "i found god in myself / and i loved her / . . . fiercely." "The poetry," stated Marilyn Stasio in Cue, "touches some very tender nerve endings. Although roughly structured and stylistically unrefined, this fierce and passionate poetry has the power to move a body to tears, to rage, and to an ultimate rush of love."

A similar work, Spell #7: A Geechee Quick Magic Trance Manual, concerns nine characters in a New York bar who discuss the racism black artists contend with in the entertainment world. At one point, the all-black cast appears in overalls and minstrel-show blackface to address the pressure placed on the black artist to fit a stereotype in order to succeed.

Shange's poetry books, like her theater pieces, are distinctively original; she takes many liberties with the conventions of written English, using nonstandard spellings and punctuation. While some reviewers maintained that these innovations present unnecessary obstacles to readers, Shange justified her use of "lower-case letters, slashes, and spelling" to Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work, noting: "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." She also takes liberties with the conventions of fiction writing in such novels as Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo and Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter. A mix of verse, incantations, letters, and spells, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo focuses on sisters who find different ways to cope with their love relationships, while in Liliane a woman undergoes psychoanalysis in an attempt to better understand the events of her life, particularly her mother's decision to abandon the family for a white man when Liliane was a child. 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.

In 1997 Shange published Whitewash, her first picture book for young readers. Based on actual events, Whitewash concerns an African-American girl, Helene-Angel, and her brother, Mauricio, who are the victims of a racial attack by a white gang. The thugs beat Mauricio and cover Helene-Angel's face with white paint. In the days after the assault, the pair are so upset that they refuse to leave their home, until Helene-Angel's classmates visit and offer their support. Jennifer Ralston, writing in School Library Journal, called the work "powerful," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that Shange's "characters speak in tones of shock and pain that clearly convey the seriousness of the issues here."

Boxing great Muhammad Ali is the subject of the 2002 picture book Float like a Butterfly. In an interview with Clarence V. Reynolds in Black Issues Book Review, Shange said she approached the work with great enthusiasm: "Ali came to dinner at [my] house when I was teenager, and I saw quite a different man from the macho man that everybody else saw. Not only was he impressive and intelligent, he was surprisingly soft-spoken. This project gave me a chance to honor him." The story follows Ali through his childhood in the segregated South, his gold medal performance at the 1960 Olympics, his reign as heavyweight boxing champion, and his conversion to Islam. In Float like a Butterfly, Shange "has masterfully captured the unique cadence of Ali's voice as she offers an unabashedly positive story that will leave kids cheering," remarked Booklist contributor John Green.

The young-adult novel Daddy Says "fills a niche by portraying African-American girls in a western context," observed a critic in Kirkus Reviews. Published in 2003, the novel takes place on an East Texas ranch, where sisters Lucie-Marie and Annie Sharon are coping with the death of their mother, a rodeo champion, and their father's relationship with his new girlfriend. To regain her father's attention, Annie Sharon attempts to ride the same horse that killed her mother, a risky decision that places her own life in danger. Daddy Says received mixed reviews. In Publishers Weekly a critic wrote that while "the story provides enough action to keep pages turning, . . . the heart-felt moments are too few," and School Library Journal contributor Carol A. Edwards stated, "Despite strong characters and a lively setting, this novel is disjointed and unsatisfying, which is a shame, since Shange is clearly capable of portraying rivalry and competitive spirit realistically."Ellington Was Not a Street, a 2004 picture book, "is a paean to Shange's family home and the exciting men who gathered there," noted Ilene Cooper in Booklist. The family's illustrious visitors included musicians Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, actor Paul Robeson, activist W. E. B. DuBois, and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the former president of Ghana. The text of the story is taken from Shange's poem "Mood Indigo," found in her 1983 collection, A Daughter's Geography; according to a Kirkus Reviews critic, "The poetic text is spare, with only a few words on each spread, but they match the majesty of the scene." Reviewing Ellington Was Not a Street, a reviewer in Ebony called the work a "heartfelt homage to [a] community of artists and innovators," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed it an "elegiac tribute to a select group of African-American men who made important contributions to twentieth-century culture."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

African-American Writers, 2nd edition, Scribner (New York, NY), 2001.

Betsko, Kathleen, and Rachel Koenig, editors, Interviews with Contemporary Women Playwrights, Beech Tree Books, 1987.

Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 8, 1978, Volume 25, 1983, Volume 38, 1986, Volume 74, 1993, Volume 26, 2000.

Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 38: Afro-American Writers after 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, 1985; Volume 249: Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, Third Series, 2002.

Drama for Students, Volume 2, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.

Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Volume 23, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.

Tate, Claudia, editor, Black Women Writers at Work, Continuum (New York, NY), 1983.


PERIODICALS

African American Review, spring, 1992; summer, 1992.

American Black Review, September, 1983; March, 1986.

Back Stage, June 30, 1995, Ira J. Bilowit, "Twenty Years Later, Shange's 'Colored Girls' Take a New Look at Life," pp. 15-16.

Black Issues Book Review, November-December, 2002, Clarence V. Reynolds, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Fairy Tales," review of Float like a Butterfly, 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; March, 1981; December, 1982; July, 1985; winter, 1996, p. 68; summer, 1996, p. 67.

Booklist, April 15, 1987; May 15, 1991; January 1, 1998, Alice Joyce, review of If I Can Cook/You Know God Can, pp. 759-76; October 15, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of The Beacon Best of 1999: Creative Writing by Women and Men of All Colors, p. 1837; June 1, 2001, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Betsey Brown, p. 1837; September 1, 2002, John Green, review of Float like a Butterfly, p. 131; February 15, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Ellington Was Not a Street, p. 1070; October 15, 2004, Janet St. John, review of The Sweet Breath of Life, p. 382.

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.

Cue, June 26, 1976.

Ebony, March, 2004, review of Ellington Was Not a Street, p. 28.

Entertainment Weekly, March 10, 1995, p. 65; March 20, 1998, Carmela Ciuraru, review of If I Can Cook/You Know God Can, p. 84.

Essence, November, 1976; May, 1985, "Ntozake Shange Talks with Marcia Ann Gillespie," pp. 122-123; June, 1985; August, 1991; December, 2004, Douglas Danoff, review of The Sweet Breath of Life, p. 134.

Horizon, September, 1977.

Horn Book, November-December, 2002, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Float like a Butterfly, p. 781.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of Float like a Butterfly, p. 1320; December 1, 2002, review of Daddy Says, p. 1773; November 15, 2003, review of Ellington Was Not a Street, p. 1364.

Kliatt, January, 1989.

Library Journal, May 1, 1987; January, 1998, Wendy Miller, review of If I Can Cook/You Know God Can, p. 130; October 15, 1999, Louis J. Parascandola, review of The Beacon Best of 1999, p. 70; September 1, 2004, Doris Lynch, review of The Sweet Breath of Life, pp. 155-156.

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.

New Statesman, October 4, 1985; 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; 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.

Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1985; November 14, 1994, p. 65; January 1, 1996, p. 69; November 3, 1997, review of Whitewash, p. 85; September 20, 1999, review of The Beacon Best of 1999, p. 65; September 16, 2002, review of Float like a Butterfly, p. 68; November 25, 2002, review of Daddy Says, p. 68; December 22, 2003, review of Ellington Was Not a Street, p. 59; August 2, 2004, review of The Sweet Breath of Life, p. 66.

Saturday Review, February 18, 1978; May/June, 1985.

School Library Journal, October, 2002, Ajoke' T. I. Kokodoko, review of Float like a Butterfly, p. 152; February, 2003, Carol A. Edwards, review of Daddy Says, p. 148; October, 2003, Jennifer Ralston, review of Whitewash, p. 98; January, 2004, Mary N. Oluonye, review of Ellington Was Not a Street, p. 122.

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.

Variety, July 25, 1979.

Village Voice, August 16, 1976; 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.

World Literature Today, summer, 1995, p. 584.


ONLINE

Voices from the Gaps Web site, http://voices.cla.umn.edu/ (January 10, 2005), "Ntozake Shange."*

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Shange, Ntozake 1948–

Ntozake Shange 1948

Writer, performer, educator

At a Glance

Created Famous Choreopoem

Turned to Fiction

Poetry Defied Conventions

Awards and Recognition

1990s Work

Selected writings

Sources

When Ntozake Shanges for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf: a choreopoem appeared on the theater scene in New York City in 1975, it achieved immense popularity. Ten years later, it was still being produced in various theaters throughout the United States. With this choreopoema performance piece made up of a combination of poems and danceShange introduced various themes and concerns that continue to characterize her writings and performances. Her works are often angry diatribes against social forces that contribute to the oppression of black women in the United States combined with a celebration of womens self-fulfillment and spiritual survival.

Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams, the oldest of Paul and Eloise Owens Williamss four children, in 1948 in Trenton, New Jersey. Shange experienced what Sandra L. Richards described in African American Writers as a childhood blessed with material security and loving parents who traveled widely, maintained an international set of friends, and transmitted a pride in African and African American cultures. Shange explained her parents influence to Claudia Tate: My parents have always been especially involved in all kinds of Third World culture. We used to go to hear Latin music, jazz and symphonies, to see ballets I was always aware that there were different kinds of black people all over the world So I knew I wasnt on this planet by myself. I had some connections with other people.

The family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1953 when Shange was five years old, and she was one of the first children to integrate the public school system. However, the young Shange rebelled at an early age against her parents middle-class complacency, identifying with the live-in domestic help who took care of her when she was a child. In 1961 the Williams family moved to Lawrenceville, New Jersey. At Morristown High School, Shange wrote poetry centered on black themes and subjects. Although she was published in the school magazine, her choice of subject matter was criticized, and she began to realize her need for black women role models. As she told Michele Wallace in the Village Voice, There was nothing to aspire to, no one to honor. [Nineteenth-century civil rights advocate] Sojourner Truth wasnt a big enough role model for me. I couldnt go around abolishing slavery.

In 1966 Shange enrolled at Barnard College and separated from her husband, a law student. She attempted suicide

At a Glance

Born Paillette Linda Williams, October 18, 1948, in Trenton, NJ; changed name to Ntozake Shange (pronounced en-to-zaki shong-gay), 1971; daughter of Paul T. (a surgeon) and Eiotse (a social worker and educator) Williams; married second husband, David Murray (a musician), July, 1977 (divorced); children: Savannah Thulani Eloisa. Education: Barnard College, B.A. (with honors), 1970; University of Southern California at Los Angeles, M.A., 1973; graduate study at University of Southern California.

Member of womens studies faculty, California State College, Sonoma Mills College, and University of California Extension, 1972-75; creative writing instructor, City College of New York; lecturer, Douglas College, 1978; Mellon Distinguished Professor of Literature, Rice University, 1983; associate professor of drama, University of Houston Creative Writing Program, 1983-86; lecturer at Yale University, Howard University, Detroit institute of Arts, and New York University; dancer for Third World Collective, Raymond Sawyers Afro-American Dance Company, Sounds in Motion, West Coast Dance Works, and in her own productions; artist in residence, New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Houston Equinox Theater; director of several stage productions; has given numerous poetry readings.

Member: Actors Equity, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, PEN American Center, New York Feminist Arts Guild, Writers Guild.

Selected awards: Obie, Outer Critics Circle, Audelco, and Mademoiselle awards and Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award nominations, all 1977, all for for colored girts who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf: a choreopoem; Obie Award, 1981, for Mother Courage and Her Children; Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, 1981, for Three Pieces; Guggenheim fellow; Living Legend Award, National Black Theater Festival, 1993; Pushcart Prize.

Addresses: Home231 North Third St., No. 119, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Office The Maryland Institute, 1300 Mt. Royal Ave., Baltimore, MD 21217.

several times, frustrated by what Richards termed a society that penalized intelligent, purposeful women. Nonetheless, she graduated with honors in American Studies in 1970 and entered the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, where she earned a masters degree in American Studies in 1973.

In 1971 Shange adopted her Zulu name: Ntozake means she who comes with her own things, and Shange translates as one who walks with lions. She explained to Allan Wallach in Newsday that the name change was due, in part, to her belief that she was living a lie: [I was] living in a world that defied reality as most black people, or most white people, understood itin other words, feeling that there was something that I could do, and then realizing that nobody was expecting me to do anything because I was colored and 1 was also female, which was not very easy to deal with.

Moving to California put Shange in touch with a feminist perspective. She related to Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work that she didnt start out to write feminist tracts. She continued, I was writing what I had to write, and the people who wanted to hear what I was writing were women. She soon joined a Third World Womens Cooperative, which she explained to Tate was supportive and instrumental in her development: I didnt really do anything about integrating feminism and black consciousness. We met together in groups by ourselves: black, white, Asian, and Native-American women. We did our work for our own people, and all of my work just grew from there.

While living in California and teaching humanities and womens studies courses at Mills College in Oakland, the University of California Extension, and Sonoma State College, Shange began to associate with poets, teachers, performers, and black and white feminist writers who nurtured her talents. Lesbian poet Judy Grahns 1973 The Common Woman provided the model for Shanges work for colored girls. Shange also discovered other women poets who were exploring the implications of liberation movements as they affected the lives of women of color and rejecting the claims of patriarchy, observed Richards in African American Writers. Shange and her friends began to perform their poetry, music, and dance in bars and coffeehouses in the San Francisco area, and feminist presses like Shameless Hussy and the Oakland Womens Press Collective began to publish womens writings.

Shanges first experience with womens theater also occurred while she was in California. Because of her exposure to New World African religions, choreographer Halifu Osumare cast Shange as a priestess in The Evolution of Black Dance, a dance-drama performed in Oakland and Berkeley public schools in 1973 and 1974. Richards remarked that Shange became imbued with Osumares confidence in the legitimacy of their own women-centered/African-centered vision. When she left the company, Shange began to collaborate on poems, dance, and music that would form the basis of for colored girls.

Created Famous Choreopoem

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf is a mixture of genrespoems, narratives, dialogues, dancedramatized through the voices of and interaction among the seven women characters who represent the black woman [who has] been dead so long/closed in silence so long/she doesnt know the sound/of her own voice/her infinite beauty. The collage of danced poems, a choreopoem, according to Richards, is a gift or a song calculated to restore [the black woman] to life. Because the women play multiple unnamed characters, what emerges is not an individual protagonist but an essential Even/woman. As one of the characters says, we want to sing a black girls song Sing a song of life, shes been dead so long.

for colored girls earned some positive reviews in the theatrical world. Ms. correspondent Toni Cade Bambara, for instance, said the play celebrates survival. The portraits, Bambara commented, are not case studies of stunning wrecks hollering about paid dues and criminal overcharges are not booze-based blues and ballads about lost love and missing teeth. Instead, Shange celebrates the capacity to master pain and betrayals with wit, sister-sharing, reckless daring, and flight and forgetfulness if necessary. She celebrates most of all womens loyalties to women.

Martin Gottfried, writing in the New York Post, found that the tone of the monologues is bitter but assertive, imbued with a new-discovered sense of pride, reaching toward exultation. The anger is over time and pain wasted rather than an expected, indefinite continuation of it. Gottfried, however, moved away from the shows concern with gender to comment on its concern with race: The essence of the show remains its pure and perfectly captured blackness. Black language, black mannerisms, black tastes and black feelings have never been so completely and artistically presented in a Broadway theater except for Melvin van Peebless Aint No Way to Die a Natural Death.

Despite such accolades, for colored girls stirred some controversy. Richards commented in African American Writers that perhaps the reason for some members of the black communitys virulent attack on the play was because no positive male-female interactions were presented and the beau willie poem seemed to accuse all black men of pathological behavior. Because of this, Richards concluded, the real power sourcewhite menwas left untouched. Richards went on to say that for colored girls violated the unspoken code of the 1960s by rejecting the equation of black liberation with male privilege.

Remaining in New York until 1982, Shange produced several plays, including Spell #7: A Geechee Quick Magic Trance Manual, which received some positive reviews. In this production, Shange returns to the choreopoem structure, building the play on a series of poetry and dance vignettes that contemplate what it is like to be black in the United States. The main icon of the play is a black minstrel mask that dominates the set, providing what Richards referred to in African American Writers as a specific historical context and a temporally undifferentiated psychic terrain a hideous representation of blacks in the American popular imagination. At the turning point of the play, the characters begin to rip off their masks and to journey to a land behind the masks where, Richards observed, blacks are free to create identities unfettered by white assumptions. In this exorcised space, Richards continued, the actors explore a complexity seldom accorded black characters.

Turned to Fiction

During her New York years, Shange also began writing fiction. Sassafras: A Novella was published in 1977 and was expanded into her first novel, Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo, in 1982. Her second novel, Betsey Brown, was published three years later. Commenting on Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo a story about the interaction between a mother, Hilda Effania, and her three daughtersDoris Grumbach of the Washington Post Book World lauded, Into her narrative potpourri [reminiscent of Jean Toomers Cane] she tosses all the graphic elements of southern black life: wonderful recipes spells and potions prescriptions letters.

In Shanges second novel, Betsey Brown, the writer shifts her focus to more autobiographical settings and themes. Betsey, the thirteen-year-old heroine, is a black girl growing up in St. Louis in 1959. Like Shange herself, Betsey is involved in the integration of public schools and is forced to ride three different buses to learn the same things with white children that shed been learning with colored children. Betsey asks, Why didnt the white children come to her school? Like many other young black heroines in coming-of-age stories, Betsey must ultimately learn to reconcile her cultural heritage with the white environment she becomes a part of through integration. Nancy Willard declared in the New York Times Book Review that Betsey Brown is a healing book and a loving celebration of the differences that make us human.

Poetry Defied Conventions

Just as in her theater pieces and novels, Shanges collections of poetry, such as Nappy Edges (1978), A Daughters Geography (1983), and Riding the Moon in Texas (1987), push the limits of generic conventions. She uses nonstandard spelling, punctuation, and line breaks to convey her concerns with what she has called the slow erosion of our humanity and to capture the rhythms and sounds of vernacular black speech patterns. Shange told Tate in Black Women Writers at Work that she really [resents] having to meet somebody elses standards or needs, or having to justify their reasons for living.

Shange cites LeRoi Jones (Imamu Baraka) and Ismael Reed among her models for her use of lower-case letters, slashes, and spelling in her poetry and explained to Tate that she is interested in the way poetry looks on the page. The writer further offered that she likes letters and words that dance on the page because they stimulate visually and encourage the readers to become rigorous participants. Her irregular spellings, she told Tate, reflect the language as I hear it.

Awards and Recognition

Shange has many awards to her credit, for colored girls won the 1977 Obie, Outer Critics Circle, Audelco, and Mademoiselle awards and received Tony, Grammy, and Emmy nominations. In 1981 she won an Obie for her adaptation of Brechts Mother Courage and Her Children and earned a Guggenheim fellowship. Shange is a member of the New York State Council of the Arts and is an artist-in-residence at Houstons Equinox Theater.

In 1977 Shange married musician David Murraywhom she later divorcedand their daughter, Savannah Thulani Eloisa, was born in 1981. She left New York two years later to become a Mellon Distinguished Professor of Literature at Rice University in Houston for the spring semester and an associate professor of drama in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston. Shange returned East in 1989 to be closer to the New York arts scene, an environment that African American Writers Richards suspected allows for greater artistic experimentation.

1990s Work

In 1993 Shange directed Ina Cesaires Fires Daughters for the Ubu Repertory Theater. Fires Daughters takes place on the eve of the 1870 rebellion by former slaves against French colonialism on the island of Martinique. A mother and two daughters conceal a wounded rebel in their home, a man in whom their neighbor, Sister Smoke, is interested. D. J. R. Bruckner of the New York Times described the play as a lyric poem shared by four people, with a beat supplied by the off-stage rebel that is insistent, even angry. But anger turns to triumph by the steely good humor of the women Miss Shange and this first-rate cast bring across much of the imaginative determination of the islands people.

In 1994 Shanges third novel, Liliane: The Resurrection of the Daughter, was published. Liliane is set in Mississippi during the last days of legal segregation and in the Bronx, New York, in the midst of conflict within the African-American community. Many voices are interwoven into the novel: the main characters childhood friends and current lovers, her own artistic visions, and her dialogue with her analyst. By coming to terms with her past experiences, Liliane pieces together a landscape of her future.

Shange has repeatedly expressed her concern that European art is still held up as the standard for writing. She told Claudia Tate that she believes theres been a systematic attack on black people that has propagated the misconception that we only have this little thing over here. Shange feels her work is one way to preserve the elements of our culture that need to be remembered and absolutely revered and to break the silence regarding womens lives. When I die, she told Tate in Black Women Writers at Work, I will not be guilty of having left a generation of girls behind thinking that anyone can tend to their emotional health other than themselves. Shange believes it is incumbent on her generation of writers to see that this does not happen. Her outstanding body of written and performed art has contributed in important ways to breaking that silence.

Selected writings

Plays

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf: a choreopoem (produced in New York City, 1975, produced on Broadway, 1976, featured on American Playhouse, PBS, 1981), Shameless Hussy Press, 1975.

A Photograph: Lovers in Motion (produced Off-Broadway, 1977), Samuel French, 1981.

(With Thulani Nkakinda and Jessica Hagedorn) Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon, produced in New York City, 1977.

From Okra to Greens: A Different Kinda Love Story; A Play With Music and Dance (produced in New York City, 1978), Samuel French, 1985.

Three for a Full Moon and Bocas, produced in Los Angeles, 1978.

Boogie Woogie Landscapes (produced as one-woman performance, then in play form in New York City, 1979), St. Martins, 1978.

Black and White Two Dimensional Planes, produced in New York City, 1979.

Spell #7: A Geechee Quick Magic Trance Manual (produced on Broadway, 1979), Methuen, 1985.

Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children (adaptation), produced Off-Broadway, 1980.

A Daughters Geography, produced in New York City, 1981.

Willy Russell, Educating Rita (adaptation), produced in Atlanta, GA, 1982.

Three Views of Mt. Fuji, produced in New York City, 1987.

Fires Daughters, produced in New York City, 1993.

Also author of Three Pieces: Spell #7; A Photograph: Lovers in Motion; Boogie Woogie Landscapes (collection of previously published plays), St. Martins, 1981, reprinted, 1992; and Daddy Says, published in New Plays for the Black Theatre, edited by Woodie King, Jr., Third World Press, 1989.

Poetry

Melissa & Smith, Bookslinger Editions, 1976.

Natural Disasters and Other Festive Occasions, Heirs, 1977.

Nappy Edges, St. Martins, 1978.

A Daughters Geography, St. Martins, 1983, reprinted 1991.

From Okra to Greens: Poems, Coffee House Press, 1984.

Ridin the Moon in Texas: Word Paintings, St. Martins, 1987.

The Love Space Demands: A Continuing Saga (choreopoem), St. Martins, 1991.

Other

Sassafras (novella), Shameless Hussy Press, 1976.

Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo (novel) St. Martins, 1982.

See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays and Accounts, 1976-1983, Momos Press, 1984.

Betsey Brown (novel), St. Martins, 1985.

(Author of forward) Robert Mapplethorpe, The Black Book, St. Martins, 1986.

Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter (novel), St. Martins, 1994.

Contributor to various periodicals, including Black Scholar, Third World Women, Ms., and Yardbird Reader, and to anthologies.

Sources

Books

Betsko, Kathleen, and Rachel Koenig, editors, Interviews With Contemporary Women Playwrights, Beech Tree Books, 1987, pp. 379-386.

Brown-Gillory, Elizabeth, Their Place on the Stage: Black Women Playwrights in America, Greenwood Press, 1988.

Christ, Carol P., Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest, Beacon Press, 1980, pp. 97-118.

Christian, Barbara, Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers, Pergamon Press, 1985, pp. 187-204.

Geis, Deborah R., Feminine Focus: The New Women Playwrights, edited by Enoch Brater, Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 210-225.

Richards, Sandra L., African American Writers, edited by Valerie Smith, Scribners, 1991, pp. 379-393.

Tate, Claudia, editor, Black Women Writers at Work, Continuum, 1983, pp. 149-174.

Periodicals

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 22, 1982, p. 2; January 8, 1984, p. 9; July 29, 1984, p. 4.

Mother Jones, June 1985, p. 58.

Ms., September 1976, p. 36.

Newsday, August 22, 1976.

New York Post, September 16, 1976.

New York Times, December 22, 1977, p. 11; July 22, 1979, p. D3; May 14, 1980, p. 20; June 15, 1980, p. D5; October 20, 1993.

New York Times Book Review, October 21, 1979, p. 22; September 12, 1982, p. 12; May 12, 1985, p. 12.

The Progressive, January 1983, p. 56.

Village Voice, August 16, 1976, pp. 108-109.

Washington Post Book World, October 15, 1978, p. 1; August 22, 1982, pp. 1-2.

Mary Katherine Wainwright

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Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange

When African American writer Ntozake Shange's (born 1948) for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf: a choreopoem appeared on the theater scene in New York City in 1975, it achieved immense popularity. Ten years later, it was still being produced in various theaters throughout the United States. With this "choreo poem"—a performance piece made up of a combination of poems and dance—Shange introduced various themes and concerns that continue to characterize her writings and performances. Her works are often angry diatribes against social forces that contribute to the oppression of black women in the United States combined with a celebration of women's self-fulfillment and spiritual survival.

Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams, the oldest of Paul and Eloise Owens Williams's four children, on October 18, 1948, in Trenton, New Jersey. Shange experienced what Sandra L. Richards described in African American Writers as a "childhood blessed with material security and loving parents who traveled widely, maintained an international set of friends, and transmitted a pride in African and African American cultures." Shange explained her parents' influence to Claudia Tate: "My parents have always been especially involved in all kinds of Third World culture. We used to go to hear Latin music, jazz and symphonies, to see ballets… . I was always aware that there were different kinds of black people all over the world… . So I knew I wasn't on this planet by myself. I had some connections with other people."

The family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1953 when Shange was five years old, and she was one of the first children to integrate the public school system. However, the young Shange rebelled at an early age against her parents' middle-class complacency, identifying with the live-in domestic help who took care of her when she was a child. In 1961 the Williams family moved to Lawrenceville, New Jersey. At Morristown High School, Shange wrote poetry centered on black themes and subjects. Although she was published in the school magazine, her choice of subject matter was criticized, and she began to realize her need for black women role models. As she told Michele Wallace in the Village Voice, "There was nothing to aspire to, no one to honor. [Nineteenth-century civil rights advocate] Sojourner Truth wasn't a big enough role model for me. I couldn't go around abolishing slavery."

In 1966 Shange enrolled at Barnard College and separated from her husband, a law student. She attempted suicide several times, frustrated by what Richards termed "a society that penalized intelligent, purposeful women." Nonetheless, she graduated with honors in American Studies in 1970 and entered the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, where she earned a master's degree in American Studies in 1973.

In 1971 Shange adopted her Zulu name: Ntozake means "she who comes with her own things," and Shange translates as "one who walks with lions." She explained to Allan Wallach in Newsday that the name change was due, in part, to her belief that she was "living a lie:" "[I was] living in a world that defied reality as most black people, or most white people, understood it—in other words, feeling that there was something that I could do, and then realizing that nobody was expecting me to do anything because I was colored and I was also female, which was not very easy to deal with."

Feminist Persceptive

Moving to California put Shange in touch with a feminist perspective. She related to Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work that she didn't "start out to write feminist tracts." She continued, "I was writing what I had to write, and the people who wanted to hear what I was writing were women." She soon joined a Third World Women's Cooperative, which she explained to Tate was "supportive and instrumental" in her development: "I didn't really do anything about integrating feminism and black consciousness. We met together in groups by ourselves: black, white, Asian, and Native-American women. We did our work for our own people, and all of my work just grew from there."

While living in California and teaching humanities and women's studies courses at Mills College in Oakland, the University of California Extension, and Sonoma State College, Shange began to associate with poets, teachers, performers, and black and white feminist writers who nurtured her talents. Lesbian poet Judy Grahn's 1973 The Common Woman provided the model for Shange's work for colored girls. Shange also discovered other women poets who were exploring the "implications of liberation movements as they affected the lives of women of color" and "rejecting the claims of patriarchy," observed Richards in African American Writers. Shange and her friends began to perform their poetry, music, and dance in bars and coffeehouses in the San Francisco area, and feminist presses like Shameless Hussy and the Oakland Women's Press Collective began to publish women's writings.

Theater

Shange's first experience with women's theater also occurred while she was in California. Because of her exposure to New World African religions, choreographer Halifu Osumare cast Shange as a priestess in The Evolution of Black Dance, a dance-drama performed in Oakland and Berkeley public schools in 1973 and 1974. Richards remarked that Shange "became imbued with Osumare's confidence in the legitimacy of their own women-centered/ African-centered vision." When she left the company, Shange began to collaborate on poems, dance, and music that would form the basis of for colored girls.

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf is a mixture of genres—poems, narratives, dialogues, dance—dramatized through the voices of and interaction among the seven women characters who represent the black woman "[who has] been dead so long/ closed in silence so long/she doesn't know the sound/of her own voice/her infinite beauty." "The collage of danced poems," a choreopoem, according to Richards, "is a gift or a song calculated to restore [the black woman] to life… . Because the women play multiple unnamed characters, what emerges is not an individual protagonist but an essential Everywoman." As one of the characters says, we want to "sing a black girl's song… . Sing a song of life, she's been dead so long."

Remaining in New York until 1982, Shange produced several plays, including Spell # 7: A Geechee Quick Magic Trance Manual, which received some positive reviews. In this production, Shange returns to the choreopoem structure, building the play on a series of poetry and dance vignettes that contemplate what it is like to be black in the United States. The main icon of the play is a black minstrel mask that dominates the set, providing what Richards referred to in African American Writers as "a specific historical context and a temporally undifferentiated psychic terrain … a hideous representation of blacks in the American popular imagination." At the turning point of the play, the characters begin to rip off their masks and to journey to a land behind the masks where, Richards observed, "blacks are free to create identities unfettered by white assumptions." In this "exorcised space," Richards continued, "the actors explore a complexity seldom accorded black characters."

Began Writing Fiction

During her New York years, Shange also began writing fiction. Sassafras: A Novella was published in 1977 and was expanded into her first novel, Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo, in 1982. Her second novel, Betsey Brown, was published three years later. In Betsey Brown, the writer shifts her focus to more autobiographical settings and themes. Betsey, the thirteen-year-old heroine, is a black girl growing up in St. Louis in 1959. Like Shange herself, Betsey is involved in the integration of public schools and is forced to ride three different buses "to learn the same things with white children that she'd been learning with colored children." Betsey asks, "Why didn't the white children come to her school?" Like many other young black heroines in coming-of-age stories, Betsey must ultimately learn to reconcile her cultural heritage with the white environment she becomes a part of through integration.

Just as in her theater pieces and novels, Shange's collections of poetry, such as Nappy Edges (1978), A Daughter's Geography (1983), and Riding the Moon in Texas (1987), push the limits of generic conventions. She uses nonstandard spelling, punctuation, and line breaks to convey her concerns with what she has called the "slow erosion of our humanity" and to capture the rhythms and sounds of vernacular black speech patterns. Shange told Tate in Black Women Writers at Work that she "really [resents] having to meet somebody else's standards or needs, or having to justify their reasons for living."

Shange cites LeRoi Jones (Imamu Baraka) and Ismael Reed among her models for her use of "lower-case letters, slashes, and spelling" in her poetry and explained to Tate that she is interested in the way poetry looks on the page. The writer further offered that she likes letters and words that "dance" on the page because they stimulate visually and encourage the readers to become "rigorous" participants. Her irregular spellings, she told Tate, "reflect the language as I hear it."

Shange has many awards to her credit. for colored girls won the 1977 Obie, Outer Critics Circle, Audelco, and Mademoiselle awards and received Tony, Grammy, and Emmy nominations. In 1981 she won an Obie for her adaptation of Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children and earned a Guggenheim fellowship. Shange is a member of the New York State Council of the Arts and is an artist-in-residence at Houston's Equinox Theater.

In 1977 Shange married musician David Murray— whom she later divorced—and their daughter, Savannah Thulani Eloisa, was born in 1981. She left New York two years later to become a Mellon Distinguished Professor of Literature at Rice University in Houston for the spring semester and an associate professor of drama in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston. Shange returned East in 1989 to be closer to the New York arts scene, an environment that African American Writers' Richards suspected "allows for greater artistic experimentation."

In 1993 Shange directed Ina Cesaire's Fire's Daughters for the Ubu Repertory Theater. Fire's Daughters takes place on the eve of the 1870 rebellion by former slaves against French colonialism on the island of Martinique. A mother and two daughters conceal a wounded rebel in their home, a man in whom their neighbor, Sister Smoke, is interested.

In 1994 Shange's third novel, Liliane: The Resurrection of the Daughter, was published. Liliane is set in Mississippi during the last days of legal segregation and in the Bronx, New York, in the midst of conflict within the African American community. Many voices are interwoven into the novel: the main character's childhood friends and current lovers, her own artistic visions, and her dialogue with her analyst. By coming to terms with her past experiences, Liliane pieces together a "landscape of her future."

Subsequent writings include a children's book and a collection of essays. Whitewash (1997) is the story of a young African American girl who is traumatized when a gang attacks her and her brother on their way home from school and spray-paints her face white. If I Can Cook You Know God Can (1998) is a series of conversational essays about the culinary habits of African Americans, Nicaraguans, Londoners, Barbadoans, Brazilians, and Africans. Recipes range from the traditional, like collard greens, to the exotic, like turtle eggs and feijoada. As Booklist notes, 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 2002, Shange's works Float Like a Butterfly and Daddy Says were published. Float Like a Butterfly, a biography of Muhammad Ali, is a picture book piece that explores the forces that shaped Ali in his ascent to the top of the sports world, including his childhood in the segregated South and the influence of his parents' support on his future success. The African American rodeo scene is the backdrop of Shange's young adult novel Daddy Says. Shange weaves a tale around adolescent sisters Lucie-Marie and Annie Sharon and their father, Cowboy "Tie-Down," as they work through the death of their mother, Tie-Down's wife.

Books

Betsko, Kathleen, and Rachel Koenig, editors, Interviews With Contemporary Women Playwrights, Beech Tree Books, 1987.

Brown-Gillory, Elizabeth, Their Place on the Stage: Black Women Playwrights in America, Greenwood Press, 1988.

Christ, Carol P., Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest, Beacon Press, 1980.

Christian, Barbara, Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers, Pergamon Press, 1985.

Geis, Deborah R., Feminine Focus: The New Women Playwrights, edited by Enoch Brater, Oxford University Press, 1989.

Richards, Sandra L., African American Writers, edited by Valerie Smith, Scribner's, 1991.

Tate, Claudia, editor, Black Women Writers at Work, Continuum, 1983.

Periodicals

Booklist, January 1, 1998.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 22, 1982; January 8, 1984; July 29, 1984.

Mother Jones, June 1985.

Ms., September 1976.

Newsday, August 22, 1976.

New York Post, September 16, 1976.

New York Times, December 22, 1977; July 22, 1979; May 14, 1980; June 15, 1980; October 20, 1993.

New York Times Book Review, October 21, 1979.; September 12, 1982.; May 12, 1985.

The Progressive, January 1983.

Publisher's Weekly, September 16, 2002; November 25, 2002.

Village Voice, August 16, 1976.

Washington Post Book World, October 15, 1978; August 22, 1982.

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