The book For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf explores the hardships of women of color in America by sharing their story in a very interesting format. I was excited to see what the title had to do with anything. For me it was a strange title and I just did not have a clue of what Ntozake Shange was possibly referring to.
The next surprise was seeing the grammar used in the play. It was difficult at first to try to decipher the language, but I became used to it. Later in the book, I would discover what power a format like this would have.
The initial information you receive about these women of color (literally), is that they are from all over America, including: “chicago…detroit…houston…baltimore…san francisco…manhattan…[and]st. louis”.
I noticed that there was repetition of the use ‘outside’ when they were stating where they were from. Being ‘outside’ gives the reader a sense that they are on the ‘outside’ of other things besides location, maybe education, the American dream, or maybe they are ‘outside’ of the ‘dinner conversation’. One thing that really works for the play is not giving too much information about the women’s background. I felt that have these color ‘blobs’ of a women possibly made the play more relevant for more people. For example, the colors used do not refer to any specific race/ethnicity. I also liked that Shange gravitated towards more general themes that you can relate to in a much broader way.
The grammar for me was like the communication gap between the ‘haves & have nots’. For someone who is reading the play, I am assuming that they ‘have’ an education. The writing itself seems to be written by someone who does not have an education (I am not talking about Ntozake Shange). Writing what hasn’t been transformed into ‘literature’ gives the reader the experience of trying to delve into the lives of these women. The deciphering is also the act of looking for the stories, looking for the human piece in these stories. We need to ask ourselves: in what way is their story like yours or mine?
I felt a connection with the story of the ‘lady in blue’. From a couple of lines: “mambo, bomba, merengue…/my papa thot he was puerto rican”, I get the sense that she is a Latina woman. The other connection I had with the ‘lady in blue’ is that she lives “outside of manhattan”. For me, the ‘lady in blue’ represents a person who split between two cultures and cannot manage to keep both sides a part of her. She still “talked english loud”, but she “[doesn’t] know what anybody waz saying”.
I was moved to tears (actually) when I had realized what happened to the ‘lady in red’. Shange and actors did their job of portraying this depressing story. I was not the only one who found true sadness in her piece of the play. The evil playfulness of the father had hit me hard. He “jumped up a laughin & a gigglin” knowing what his next move would be. The next movements in this story dropped down my body to the bottom of my gut: “Naomi reachin for me/ & kwame screamin mommy mommy from the fifth story/ but i cd only whisper/ & he dropped em”. The picture painted was of a maternal moment ruined and stomp on by the monster of a father. There was a tenderness that latched on to me immediately and to see the tenderness fall out that window was painful. This part of the play seems to stand out from the rest for many.
Although I won’t be seeing the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, an interesting observation about the play is that the play is very uplifting. There is a lot of dancing and singing, though there is nothing joyful about rape, being left out, having an identity crisis, or the death of a child. I feel left out myself. I think my experience watching the play would be much better than reading the play. I was not getting the entire experience that Shange probably wanted me to have. I left the book feeling as if something was missing.
Shange has given these seven women the megaphone to share their stories with everyone. Feminism tries to do the same for those who don’t have a loud enough voice to be heard. The publishing of the book is like the sharing the megaphone with those who do not have one. A way feminism proves its point to find solutions to problems is by tapping into the personal stories to make it political.
By the end of the play, I think I might have figured out what the title means. I see the rainbow as the six other stories of hardship and pain. The ‘colored girls’ feel that they are alone and helpless when they see that only a few other women are having the same feelings and at the same time feeling helpless knowing that other women are having the same struggles.