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Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,081 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo is the story of three "colored girls," three sisters and their mama from Charleston, South Carolina: Sassafrass, the oldest, a poet and a weaver like her mother, gone north to college, living with other artists in Los Angeles and trying to weave a life out of her work, her man, her memories and dreams; Cypress, the dancer,who leaves home to f ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 15th 1996 by Picador (first published 1976)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathThe Awakening by Kate Chopin
Best Feminist Fiction
198th out of 1,015 books — 2,174 voters
Beloved by Toni MorrisonThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerThe Darkest Child by Delores PhillipsSugar by Bernice L. McFaddenHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Contemporary Black Women's Literature
51st out of 222 books — 110 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Real Supergirl
Jun 11, 2007 Real Supergirl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
"So Cypress learned to see other people as themselves, and not as threats to her person."

This line, and this novel, changed the way I conceptualize relationships. I'm still learning.
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
I picked this book up as part of a Treasure Hunt challenge, to fit the category of "Titles containing any shade of purple". This is exactly what I was hoping to get from the challenge - the discovery of a great book that I otherwise would never have chosen for myself.

SC&I tells the story of three African-American sisters from the deep South, with the legacy of slavery still very much present in everything that surrounds them. Set in the 60s-80s, the story follows each sister as they grow fro
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Three sisters grow up in South Carolina during the 1970s. The chapters are interspersed with letters from their mother, recipes, poetry, journal entries, etc. Black power and female power are common themes. Recommended by a fellow librarian.
Feb 22, 2013 Lizziepeps rated it did not like it
I really didn't like it. Very disappointed. I liked the beginning with Indigo and then it went downhill. The rest of the novel focused more on Sassafrass and Cyprus. I most definatly won't be picking up one of Ms. Shange's novels again.
Apr 15, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it
Picking through the lives of 3 sisters and their mother in Charleston, South Carolina, the author has chosen to focus on a specific period in each of the three sisters. Their father has since passed so we don't get a good sense of the person he was. But it is through the sisters' stories that we see the woman who has guided and molded them, a mother's love and wisdom, and a mother who tries to keep their father involved for a little bit in their lives at Christmas she hides a gift for each daugh ...more
Oct 30, 2007 Tia rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
This book was awesome. Not always what I expected. The book is vibrant with descriptions. I also got a kick out of the letters written by the mother, Hilda Effania. I think many of us know someone like that.
Apr 04, 2007 jessica rated it it was amazing
This is one of my most favorite books ever. This book transformed me. There's a passage about a flock of wild red birds that is forever stamped in my memory ...
Aug 22, 2014 RenardeRouge rated it it was amazing
Shelves: want-to-re-read, own
"Where there is a woman, there is magic." This is the opening sentence and one of the overarching themes of this powerful novel. Ntozake Shange shows five of many possible enchanting art forms - fibers, dancing, music, cooking and the white magic women of many cultures, races and ethnicities practice - that women around the world have been passing from one generation to the next for hundreds, probably thousands, of years. And she also reminds us that some men, men who were most likely raised (a ...more
Oct 04, 2015 Ruth rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this--African American female characters, sisters. But I think I've been spoiled by Toni Morrison. The story has mysticism/magic in it, & I'm a mystic, but this didn't engage me much. It felt formulaic somehow. Sigh.
Mar 19, 2015 Dona rated it really liked it
This was a re-read for me. I read this book many years ago and it was my Book Club's selection for March (Womens History Month). I guess wisdom does come with age because I got so much more out of it this time around. I love Shange's prose and the story of these three sisters and their mother. We each have our own paths to follow and we must take responsibility for the decisions we make. Looking in on the lives of Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo as they journied into adulthood was a pleasure. We ...more
Apr 16, 2014 Sassy rated it it was amazing
There is nothing that I can say that fully expresses how effing fantastic this book is. All the stars. Immediate re-read. And again and again. If I could I would read it everyday forever. I guess I can but that's obsessive. Obsessing will also ruin the magic of the writing. And the writing is magical.

I've been dying to read "something beautiful." This book is everything that I needed it to be.

I'd recommend it to: People who also read and liked For Colored Girls but wanted so much more. People
This is lovely, especially if you enjoy magical realism.
Jan 21, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
I read this the summer I went to England. I must have bought a used copy (I am one of those people who packs enough books for this sort of trip to last until I can find a used book store or join the library.) to take with me.

Good book - and easier for me to enjoy than the poem/play for colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf, because I have the sort of mind that likes straight forward narrative. I had to work a lot harder when I went to see the play to string all the
Aug 23, 2007 wordLife rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: black women.
Shelves: contempocasual
this book is like a literary jambalaya: poetry, prose, recipes, drama. plus, i really like how she explores the different paths three artistic Southern-grown sisters take as they grow up. And sisterhood.
Nov 05, 2012 Sonja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i wish it had focused on all the sisters stories equally but this is a really beautiful book. i love the way she writes!
Oct 10, 2010 Trudy rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-books
I experienced this story on audio. What a delicious treat!
Feb 17, 2016 Breanna rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I constantly felt like I was missing something with this one. There was just too much that was never explained.While I appreciated the lyricalness of it, I found it difficult to really relate or get attached to any of the sisters because of the rapid transitions from one POV to the next, and the drastic changes in their interactions and relationships with one another. The inconsistencies between the sisters' thoughts and their actions, especially when it came to their romantic partner ...more
Jul 05, 2014 Inda rated it it was amazing
"Where there is woman there is magic." How could I not love a book that begins with that sentence? I've been drawn to Shange's work for a very long time since I first read "for colored girls" more than a decade ago and I love her blending of poetry and narrative. I'm generally drawn to the writing from women who came of age during the 60s and crafted their art during the 70s. I love the sensibility from which Shange develops the sisters Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo. One of the more fascinating ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Malcolm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First published in the early '80s this a marvellous piece of African American feminist writing that unpacks the richness of Geechee cultural backgrounds (see also Julie Dash's novel and distinctively different movie Daughters of the Dust) in the context of the '60s and '70s counter cultures, women's crafts (weaving plays a big role), and the politics of Black nationalism.

In various of her essays Michelle Wallace justly celebrates Shange's writing (more so the play For coloured girls who have con
Cam Mannino
Sep 06, 2012 Cam Mannino rated it really liked it
A great pleasure to meet this wild, wonderful group of women. Sassafrass wants to be a revolutionary but attaches herself to a self-destructive sax player. She also wants to write, but can't resist weaving like her mama back in Charleston. Cypress loves to dance and sets off to learn ballet, African dance and to love her big body, sex of al kinds, her own strength and a good man. Indigo, who has "too much south" in her, takes the fiddle as her "talkin' friend," using it as part of her love of he ...more
Kimberly Hicks
Feb 18, 2013 Kimberly Hicks rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone with Patience
Recommended to Kimberly by: Goodreads
Ummm, I'm not really sure I know where to begin on this book. Let's just say it's one of those books that you have to truly "concentrate" in order to really grasp what is going on. I love the poetic sections of the book, and I loved the recipes thrown about, but it broke up the story, in my opinion.

And speaking of story, hmmm, I struggled with the understanding of exactly what was "really" going on? It didn't appear to be such a strong story line, other than following three sisters outrageous l
Rakeesha Jackson
Mar 06, 2016 Rakeesha Jackson rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Charleston is a complex, beautiful city.

It's imaginative and beautifully sweet.
The complications that arise when black women (and women in general) must come of age and learn to cope with themselves, their past, and their destiny. This book was marvelous.

Magic women, that's what these girls are:
"Where there is a woman, there is magic."
Jan 11, 2014 Sharon rated it liked it
I have to admit, I picked this book up after looking at nothing more than the title. Not something I usually do, but perhaps I was meant to learn something.
What I learned that I didn't already know...a bunch of French words in reference to ballet, a bit about the various African-American movements in the 60's and early 70's.
What I already knew...abusive relationships are bad, drugs screw you up, people who are manipulative will take you at every turn, and Momma's always hope for the best for the
Oct 01, 2014 Misty rated it really liked it
I fell in love with how full these characters are, especially with all their differences. I like the focus on their characters living as women of color, as sisters, as daughters, as lovers, as artists, and as individuals. Each of their life's breath seems to come straight from their individual experiences into and through their separate art forms, all equally beautiful. I wanted more of Indigo's story, but overall it's still very rich and satisfying as a book "meal".
Ralowe Ampu
Aug 28, 2013 Ralowe Ampu rated it it was amazing
the cover to the edition i read of this book was driving me crazy, and corroborates the misdirection of the book's true structure. this book is not at all what i expected. i'm so poor at literary history that i don't know if the concept of magic realism applies to what's happening in this book. shange's world is one of the most enjoyable locations interpreting the black experience that i've ever read. appreciating this vision i also at times became bothered by the heterosexist entrapments of the ...more
Jan 09, 2016 Audrey rated it liked it
This was a good book, I thought it was very poetic and full of songs, poems, spells and even some delicious recipes.

The story is of the three South Carolina African American sisters named in the title of the book. It tells of each girls journey from when they leave home and how they grow to become the women that return at the end of the book.
Bill Littell
The ending of the book seemed a little tacked on and rushed. This said, the author has put together a memorable cast of characters in this novel. Ntozake Shange is a talented and poetic writer. This certainly should be read by feminists. Lots of stuff that makes in unsuitable for summer reading and teaching at East.
Feb 25, 2016 Chaneli rated it really liked it
So much magic in this book! Following the journey of these three sisters: Sassafrass the weaver, Cypress a dancer, and Indigo, the youngest, a musician who talks to dolls and connects with the wisdom of past ancestors who is so wise beyond her years. I adore these girls and momma Hilda Effania with her words of wisdom and guidance in form of letters to each of her daughters. Interwoven with Shange's poetry, recipes, rituals, letters, songs, drama, spiritual elements of yoruba culture in order ex ...more
Sep 17, 2012 VJ rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, family
I was most pleased with the description of Cypress, the dancing sister. Indigo and Sassafras are too ethereal and stupid, respectively, for my taste. I don't like reading about women making dumb decisions to stay with abusive men (Sassafras).

I liked the mother's letters to her daughters. Full of country folk wisdom and love for her children.

Otherwise, this book was tedious. It took as long to read as something by Proust and wasn't half as analytical as it was experimental.

Update: I think what
This book fits into the category of not-sure-how-to-rate. Ntozake Shange has the ability to sing with her writing, although I'm not that big on writing with that much dialect. However, even the use of dialect can be defended since without it the reader wouldn't have had half the cultural experience. The cultural experience is what makes this book work because there isn't much of a story that hasn't been told before. And that sums up why I'm giving this book 2.5 stars. As much as I loved viewing ...more
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500 Great Books B...: Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo - Ntozake Shange 1 4 Jul 27, 2014 01:41PM  
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Ntozake Shange (pronounced En-toe-ZAHK-kay SHONG-gay) is an African-American playwright, performance artist, and writer who is best known for her Obie Award winning play for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.

Among her honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, and a Pushcart Prize.
More about Ntozake Shange...

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“Where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powers. A woman with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs and tiaras of Spanish moss, this woman is a consort of the spirits.” 96 likes
“The slaves who were ourselves had known terror intimately, confused sunrise with pain, & accepted indifference as kindness.” 13 likes
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