When first picking up For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, I was confused as to what I would be reading. The first time I had ever heard of the (partial) title is through Tyler Perry’s movie, “For Colored Girls.” His movies usually consist of melodramatic, adult issues, and I never had much interest in those particular movies. I was finally told that there was a play before Perry’s version, and that it (the original) was quite good.
The characters are black women, with the names: lady in blue, lady in green, lady in red, lady in purple, lady in brown, and lady in yellow. The first thing that popped in my head when hearing the names was “like ‘Reservoir Dogs’?” because all the men’s names are Mr., followed by a color, to establish anonymity between them.
All the women have a story to tell, such as abortion, rape, the loss of virginity, and the loss of children by the hands of an angry man. Most of the stories consist of heartache, loss, and sadness. It is, in whole, a sad book. No, calling it “sad” is not the correct way to describe it. For Colored Girls is a set of beautifully intertwined stories that eventually tie up, leaving the line, “& this is for colored girls who have considered suicide/ but are movin to the ends of their own rainbows.” This last line resonates with me, and leaves me with a feeling of confusion, sadness, and hope. Everything described in these poems is something that most people can relate to. It is not only “for colored girls,” but for any person, who has felt some emotion or experienced an event depicted in this book.
The only story that was not sad, but ended with something happy, was told by the lady in brown. This young girl that she describes is in love with Toussaint L’ouverture, and had him as her imaginary friend. He told her to go to Haiti, and leave her home behind. She happily accepted, and meets a young boy whose name is also Toussaint. They become friends. And that is the end of the story. This poem stuck with me the most because of how different the ending was compared to the others. I still cannot comprehend why Ntozake Shange would include that type of story in bunch. It seems a bit out of place, yet it works. Perhaps it has some correlation with the innocence of childhood, because the rest of the poems are about adulthood, and the hardships that come with it. I believe it is to show how easy it can sometimes be for children, and to demonstrate some sort of contrast between the two age groups, and how things can go terribly wrong.
Shange wrote these poems to “[encompass]… every feeling and experience woman has ever had.” They depict a connection between every women, demonstrating a sisterhood, and the fact that they are not alone. The part of the title “Who Have Considered Suicide,” is a no-brainer: there are women who have considered suicide because of the tolls the experiences shown in the book have on the real women in the world. The part “When the Rainbow is Enuf” is what is tricky, and I’m not going to even try right now to understand what that means. But the book is not only to provide some comfort for the women who have gone through this experiences, but to provide a voice for them. Because those women, who have to go through abortions, rape and abusive husbands, are not cared for as much in the world. It is a sad, but true, fact. If the world did care, there would always be a shoulder to cry on, or some alternative for these women, rather than suicide. And that is why Shange wrote this play: to provide consolation and a voice for women who need it.
Shange’s unique writing provides a “complicated, thought-provoking [depiction] of black people in a multilayered way.” This is definitely not a book to read in just an hour (which I did, but I’m just good like that). Yes, it is only sixty pages, but For Colored Girls has complex language that you must study, and wait for the meaning to bloom in your mind, otherwise you will not understand the book, and probably not like it. The writing is not boring, and has a certain zest that captures your attention. The biting language is perfect with the messages that each poem has. Shange’s writing “has reflections of everyone, not only black women,” and is open for any person to connect with it. The emotions and feelings expressed by the women in the poems can all be shared with most people, which adds to the universal, yet intimate feel of the play.