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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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Shange, Ntozake 1948-

SHANGE, Ntozake 1948-

PERSONAL: Born Paulette Linda Williams October 18, 1948, in Trenton, NJ; name changed 1971; pronounced "En-to-zaki Shong-gay"; 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—402 McCarty C, P.O. Box 115900, Gainesville, FL 32611. Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10010-7703.

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.

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

AWARDS, HONORS: NDEA fellow, 1973; Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Audience Development Committee (Audelco) Award, Mademoiselle Award, and Tony, Grammy, and Emmy 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; Obie Award, 1981, for Mother Courage and Her Children; Nori Eboraci Award, Barnard College, 1988; Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund annual writer's award, 1992; Paul Robeson Achievement Award, 1992; Arts and Cultural Achievement Award, National Coalition of 100 Black Women (Pennsylvania chapter), 1992; Taos World Poetry Heavyweight Champion, 1992, 1993, 1994; Living Legend Award, National Black Theatre Festival, 1993; Claim Your Life Award, WDAS-AM/FM, 1993; Monarch Merit Award, National Council for Culture and Art; Pushcart Prize.

WRITINGS:

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

(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.

(Contributor) Jules Feiffer, Selected from Contemporary American Plays: An Anthology, Literacy Volunteers of New York City (New York, NY), 1990.

(Editor) The Beacon Best of 1999: Creative Writing by Women and Men of All Colors, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 1999.

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.

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

SIDELIGHTS: Ntozake Shange—originally named Paulette Williams—was raised with the advantages of the black middle class. Yet the roles she chose for herself—including war correspondent and jazz musician—were dismissed as "no good for a woman," she told Stella Dong in a Publishers Weekly interview. 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 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 works draw heavily on her experiences of being a black female in America. "I am a war correspondent after all," she told Dong, "because I'm involved in a war of cultural and esthetic aggression."

Shange became famous 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 "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 of 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."

In For Colored Girls, poems dramatized by the women dancers recall encounters with their 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. As one voice, at the end, they declare, "i found god in myself / and i loved her / … fiercely." To say this, remarked Carol P. Christ in Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest, is "to say … that it is all right to be a woman, that the Black woman does not have to imitate whiteness or depend on men for her power of being." "The poetry," said 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."

While some reviewers are enthusiastic in their praise for the play, others are emphatically negative. "Some Black people, notably men, said that … Shange broke a taboo when her For Colored Girls…. took the theatre world by storm," Connie Lauerman reported in the Chicago Tribune. "[Shange] was accused of racism, of 'lynching' the black male." But the playwright does not agree. She told Lauerman, "Half of what we discussed in For Colored Girls about the dissipation of the family, rape, wife-battering and all that sort of thing, the U.S. Census Bureau already had…. We could have gone to the Library of Congress and read the Census reports and the crime statistics every month and we would know that more black women are raped than anyone else. We would know at this point that they think forty-eight percent of our households are headed by single females…. My job as an artist is to say what I see."

"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."

Reviews of Shange's next production, A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty, were less positive, although critics were generally impressed with the poetic quality of her writing. "Miss Shange is something besides a poet but she is not—at least not at this stage—a dramatist," Richard Eder explained in a New York Times review. He continued, "More than anything else, she 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."

Shange's next play, Spell No.7: A Geechee Quick Magic Trance Manual, more like For Colored Girls in structure, elicited a higher recommendation from Eder. Its nine characters in a New York bar 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. "That's what happens to black people in the arts no matter how famous we become…. Black Theatre is not moving forward the way people like to think it is. We're not free of our paint yet," Shange told Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work. "On another level, Spell No.7 deals with the image of a black woman as a neutered workhorse, who is unwanted, unloved, and unattended by anyone," noted Elizabeth Brown in the Dictionary of Literary Biography."The emphasis is still on the experiences of the black woman but it is broadened and deepened, and it ventures more boldly across the sexual divide," Eder wrote in the New York Times. Don Nelson, writing in the New York Daily News, deemed the show "black magic…. The word that best describes Shange's works, which are not plays in the traditional sense, is power."

Shange's poetry books, like her theater pieces, are distinctively original. Washington Post Book World critic Harriet Gilbert believed Nappy Edges, containing fifty poems, is too long. However, Gilbert praised the author, 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 related in the Times Literary Supplement, "Comparing herself to a jazzman 'takin' a solo, 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…. She constantly tries to push things to their limit, and consequently risks seeming overenthusiastic, oversimplistic or merely undisciplined…. But at its best, her method can achieve both serious humour and deep seriousness."

In her poetry, Shange takes many liberties with the conventions of written English, using nonstandard spellings and punctuation. Some reviewers feel that these innovations present unnecessary obstacles to the interested readers of Nappy Edges, A Daughter's Geography, and From Okra to Greens: Poems. Explaining her "lower-case letters, slashes, and spelling" to Tate, Shange 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 takes liberties with the conventions of fiction writing with her first full-length novel, Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo. "The novel is unusual in its form—a tapestry of narrative, poetry, magic spells, recipes and letters. Lyrical yet real, it also celebrates female stuff—weaving, cooking, birthing babies," related Lauerman. Its title characters are sisters who find different ways to cope with their love relationships. Indigo, the youngest sister, retreats into her imagination, befriending her childhood dolls, seeing only the poetry and magic of the world. The music she plays on her violin becomes a rejuvenating source for her mother and sisters. "Probably there is a little bit of all three sisters in Shange," Lauerman suggested, "though she says that her novel is not autobiographical but historical, culled from the experiences of blacks and from the information of my feelings."

Critics agree that Shange's poetry is more masterfully wrought than her fiction, yet they find much in the novel to applaud. Wrote Doris Grumbach in the Washington Post Book World, "Shange is primarily a poet, with a blood-red sympathy for and love of her people, their folk as well as their sophisticated ways, their innocent, loving goodness as much as their lack of immunity to powerful evil…. 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." In Grumbach's opinion, "Whatever Shange turns her hand to she does well, even to potions and recipes."

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 Voice Literary Supplement interviewer Eileen Myles. "I'm working on my poetry with musicians and dancers like I originally started." 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, on black women's sense of abandonment by black men, on a crack-addicted mother who sells her daughter's virginity for a hit and a pregnant woman who swallows cocaine, destroying her unborn child, to protect her man from arrest. The lead poem of the book, "irrepressibly bronze, beautiful and mine," was inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs of black and white gay men. The artist's task, Shange told Myles, is "to keep our sensibilities alive…. To keep people alive so they know they can feel what is happening as opposed to simply trying to fend it off." "I would rather you not think about how the poem's constructed but simply be in it with me," she added. "That's what it's for, not for the construction, even for the wit of it. It's for actual, visceral responses."

Shange's novel Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter again finds the author exploring the issues of race and gender in contemporary America. The protagonist, Liliane Lincoln, undergoes psychoanalysis in an attempt to better understand the events of her life, particularly her mother's decision to abandon Liliane and her father for a white man when Liliane was a child. 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." While some reviewers praised the author for her lush and unusual prose, others felt that Shange's stylistic density occasionally "up-ends the narrative," in the words of New Statesman and Society reviewer Andrea Stuart. Nevertheless, commented Valerie Sayers in the New York Times Book Review, the book "is a dense, ambitious, worthy song." And Major concluded, "A standing ovation for Ntozake Shange. This is her finest work of fiction so far."

"In the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher," according to the publisher, If I Can Cook You Know God Can is a "generous banquet" of essays steeped in "lyrical originality and musical patois." These conversational essays 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, Float Like a Butterfly, Ellington Was Not a Street, and Daddy Says. Receiving lukewarm praise and mixed critical reviews, Shange's children's fiction was not as well received among critics as her poetry. In a review of Daddy Says for the School Library Journal, Carol Edwards concluded, "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." However, a Publishers Weekly reviewer described Float Like a Butterfly a biographical tribute to boxer Muhammad Ali, as work that "nicely characterizes this modern-day hero, with poster-like illustrations and punchy text."

Shange as an editor is fully in her purview, as demonstrated by the positive critiques that greeted the release of The Beacon Best of 1999, a collection of poems, short stories, and essays written by lesser-known men and women of color. Vanessa Bush in Booklist called it "an eclectic group of works, reflecting on racial and sexual relations in the context of everyday life and self-discovery." A Publishers Weekly reviewer claimed, "Shange has been careful not to surrender to ideology or dogma in her selection of material for this expansive collection, which deserves pride of place on the crowded shelf of literary anthologies." 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.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

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.

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.

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.

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."

Mother Jones.com, http://www.motherjones.com/ (January-February, 1995), "Rebecca Carroll, Back at You: Interview with 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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