For Colored Girls: Real Stories About Real Women of Color

Over Thanksgiving Break, my mother and I went to a dude ranch called Pinegrove in upstate New York. While I was packing, I was thinking about what I was going to bring with me for entertainment during the evening. I ended up bringing my Kindle, which had the entire Sherlock Holmes story on it and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, which had been assigned to us for the break. Before even reading the choreopoem, the title confused me. What did Ntozake Shange mean by “when the rainbow is enuf”? And what did the “rainbow” symbolize? But as Thanksgiving Break started and we arrived at Pinegrove I decided to push those questions to the back of my mind.

When Thursday evening came around, I began reading while in bed. The first thing that struck me about the text was how Ntozake Shange didn’t capitalize any of her letters and used very little grammar. I thought that this unusual writing style made the text unique and different. It reminded me of how bell hooks never capitalizes the “b” or the “h” in her name because she didn’t want her name to distract the reader from the text or the ideas in the text. I  thought maybe Shange had similar beliefs. I also think that Shange decided to use this technique as a way to make the language and words her own. Therefore, no one could take them away from her.

I also think because Shange didn’t want her words to be overlooked or taken away, she combined the poems with music and dance to give them more meaning. The dancing also gives the women a way for them to express themselves when there are no words to describe how they feel or when they feel they cannot speak. Another part of the text that struck me was how complicated and detailed the stage directions were. In most of the stage directions there was a specific song that was played or a specific dance the ladies danced. I thought that this was important to notice because Shange used them to introduce each piece.

I felt the beginning introduced the piece very nicely because the line “dark phrases of womanhood” tells the reader how the pieces will explore the experiences of women (3). Specifically, this choreopoem sings a “black girl’s song” instead of a white girl’s song. It tells the experiences of women of color (4). But the difference between this choreopoem and other texts was that the piece was meant to captivate a very specific audience, since the text only brings up certain experiences that only some people can relate to such as abortion and rape. I felt that the text was aimed at a specific audience because as I was reading the text, I knew what the characters were talking about but couldn’t fully relate to the emotions they were going through since I had never been in any of those situations.

As I read further into the text, my initial questions came back to me. Even thought I didn’t and still don’t have a sure grasp on what the rainbow could represent, I came up with a theory. I first began to think about what the word suicide meant. Suicide is when people kill themselves because they are tired of living and want an option out of life. My opinion is that each color has a place in the rainbow and I thought well maybe the rainbow for each character is their road in life and the experiences they face. Each woman has their own story to share which is why I think Shange gave each woman their own color. By the end of their road or in this case the text, they find love for themselves and possibly where they belong.

One thing I found interesting was how Ntozake Shange portrayed the characters trying to be strong and confident women but then one of the most prominent pieces is about rape, which is one of the most degrading things that can happen to a person and then right after that, the next piece is about abortion and how the lady in blue is ashamed of herself because she was pregnant which led to an abortion. I think this is a part of why Ntozake Shange added these pieces into the text. She added them into the choreopoem because they that these are real problems that some women have to face during the time the play was created and even today. These women overcome these obstacles and become stronger in the end. They also find acceptance for themselves at the end of the text when the lady in red says: “i found god in myself & i loved her/ i loved her fiercely” and then all the other ladies chime in (63). The lady in red is basically saying that a piece of god is within themselves and that they have come to accept themselves as they are.

When I first opened up the book, all I was thinking was how long was it going to take me to finish the assignment, but as I kept reading I began to see why the book was so popular among the people who read it. Shange used For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf as a way to express her emotions and political views. The emotions are so strong that they can still be felt even after the reader has finished the text. The choreopoem is a great read that has opened my eyes to the different experiences people have and how much influence a book, piece of text, or a play can have on women’s lives.

Below are three links I found interesting:

3 thoughts on “For Colored Girls: Real Stories About Real Women of Color

  1. Julie, I really liked the connection you made between Ntozake Shange and bell hooks. I didn’t think about this before you brought it up in class, and I believe it is certainly a valid point. After many class discussions about the grammar and spelling in the play, I have my personal interpretation of this writing technique. I believe that Shange decided to spell words differently and use a limited amount of punctuation, as a way of not conforming to our patriarchal society. It was a way to reinvent language and own our words. Perhaps she sees “proper” language as a device that was forced upon us by white men. In my opinion, the poems are powerful enough to handle this language. When I read the poems I felt the women’s pain and emotions, and the language wasn’t something that interfered with that. I didn’t see the language as something that detracted from the play. I do believe that this play isn’t intended for everyone, and some might be bothered by the usage of “incorrect” language. However, many people aren’t troubled by the language and perhaps believe that it adds to the play as a whole. I would surely like to ask Ntozake Shange for her reasons behind this choice.

  2. When reading the book I also wondered why she used words and language the way she did, but I think the connection you made between bell hooks and Ntozake Shange and that is very interesting. I thought that Ntozake Shange wrote in the style that she did to in a way give a unique voice to the ladies in color and as Lidor stated as a way of rebelling against “proper” language even to us by the white man. In this Ntozake Shange rebels against many things society has imposed on us as women and as people including the definition of rape, which is another moment I found eye-opening. The play as a whole was very powerful and I am happy that you seemed to have enjoyed it as much as I did.

  3. Julie I found your post very insightful. I had never really thought about how the stage directions played a real key role in the play. The music also set the mood for the very sad but not hopeless play. I also found your ideas about the audience in which the text is suppose captivate interesting. For me I feel that even though the play resonates for a certain audience, it is also meant as a testament to show how no matter what the hardships a person may face they can still have hope.

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