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Betsey Brown: A Novel
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Betsey Brown: A Novel

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  444 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Praised as "exuberantly engaging" by the Los Angeles Times and a "beautiful, beautiful piece of writing" by the Houston Post, acclaimed artist Ntozake Shange brings to life the story of a young girl's awakening amidst her country's seismic growing pains. Set in St. Louis in 1957, the year of the Little Rock Nine, Shange's story reveals the prismatic effect of racism on an ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1985)
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(showing 1-30 of 964)
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My thoughts:
• This is a another book that I wondered why it has taken me so long to read as it has been sitting on my shelf unread for so so long – maybe it is because I knew my granddaughter would love this book and was waiting on until she became of age to highly recommend to her.
• Though I am not a big fan of coming-of-age stories or YA stories – I was immediately engaged from the first chapter and became invested in the characters so much that I quickly read this book over two nights.
• Shang
Jun 01, 2015 Frank rated it really liked it
A quick, light read, enjoyable in part because of its St. Louis setting, this book can be seen as a combination of Gail Milissa Grant's At the Elbows of My Elders and its depiction of black middle class family life in St. Louis, as well as, surprisingly, Mary Poppins. Over the course of the novel's 15 chapters, the Brown family experiences run-ins with racist police, the trials of early school integration, marital strife, and coming-of-age experiences like first kisses—but one of the running plo ...more
Feb 01, 2014 Pam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book mostly due to the historical parts. I wasn't that crazy about the way the author writes in that poetic way where complete sentences aren't always written and full information is not always disclosed and the way it just moves to another person or subject without any real direction.
What I did like is that I grew up in St. Louis, although I am white and lived in the suburbs, it was the same time period and I am quite familiar with many of the places she mentions since my parents
Jun 17, 2014 Kerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To say that this is a book about integration would be an under-sell: “Betsey Brown” presents a personal look at the life of a young Black girl in St Louis, covering everything from her loves and friendships to her isolation and anxieties.

I’ve always loved Ntozake Shange’s voice. Her prose borders on poetry. To fully appreciate this book, it needs to be read aloud. Every word is chosen in such a way that, not only does the meaning convey exactly what Shange aims for, but its sounds and rhythm co
Nov 27, 2009 Mum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before I review this book - I feel the need to explain how I have to select books to read.

In a perfect world, or at least in a town with a pretty decent library, I would simply look up the book that my friends had suggested on the electronic card catalog and pull it off the shelf...happy reading.

In the not so perfect world of the military library and the SMALL town library it isn't so easy. The e-card catalog NEVER works (not even for the librarian) and the selection of books is at best "slim pi
Aug 20, 2011 Niki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars--This book came up as I was searching for novels dealing with race post-WWII. I had never heard of Ntozake Shange before; the description of her work as playwright and poet intrigued me. I was not at all disappointed. She writes with rich language, not only describing how the characters look/move about or what they feel but subtly layering in their histories (passions/insecurities/triumphs/contributions/awareness of self and community). This novel is set in the South in the aftermath o ...more
Laquita Logan
I would love to say I thoroughly enjoyed the story but...As someone who grew up in a typical Black family with an atypical father and a typical mother I found this story to be just a bit too fanciful for my taste. And then, nothing happened.
Aug 02, 2008 Jaime rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Betsey Brown is an engrossing tale of a girl's coming of age in St Louis during a time of interracial strife. shange has done a wonderful job of fleshing out her characters as they interacts with various layers of the city (the upper middle-class world of the Brown family, the lower-class world of the "colored" neighborhood, and the white world). Betsey's struggles to find her place within these various communities is enthralling and well worth the time reading. Most impressive to me was shange' ...more
Marci Akoma
I enjoyed this sweet, evocative book about growing up Black in the 60s. Many of Betsey 's thoughts and experiences were similar to mine from that time. Shange always writes about being Black with a loving lyricism that makes me feel good.
(FROM JACKET)With ashotonishing lyrical beauty and dramatic intensity, Ntozake Shange tells the story of thirteen-year-old Betsey Brown, a "colored girl" poised between the enchanted world of childhood and the passionate promises, romantic and political, of the adult world. Set in St. Louis in 1957, the year that school integration disrupted America, Shange's story reveals the effect of racism and integration on a child and on a family.

Seamlessly woven into the masterful portrait of an extended
Heather Henke
Nov 06, 2015 Heather Henke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book and read it quickly because I found Betsey, the main character, to be well written and engaging. The author does leave you wanting more, but I think that was intentional. She leaves Betsey just at a point where she has finally begun to develop her own self identity and to be comfortable with it.
Jul 24, 2016 Lora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I wrote at the time, it's an unpretentious, moving novel set in St. Louis in 1959, the year school desegregation disrupted everyone's lives.
Feb 06, 2016 Akati rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting cast of characters, in a beautifully described setting, both of time and place.
Rather an abrupt ending though.
Meghan Pinson
Jan 18, 2016 Meghan Pinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book of my heart, book of my heart. I found another book of my heart. It's been a long time since a book made me moan to close what am I supposed to do?
During a recent phone call I commented to my sister that I had heard that Tyler Perry was making a movie of "For Colored Girls". She immediately raided the local used book stores and sent me several books by Ntozake Shange, a favorite author of mine 35 years ago. Among them was this coming-of-age book about a 13 year-old girl growing up in the shelter of the "good" part of St. Louis' African-American neighborhood in 1959, and the effects of the times on her life. It is a small treasure that I mi ...more
Mar 03, 2015 Becca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and complicated.
Mar 31, 2011 Chivon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this book because I have just discovered Ntozake Shange's writing. I just finished Sassafrass, cypress, and Indigo. I liked this book better than that one. It was an interesting mix of a childhood tale as well as a history lesson of how black people lived and felt in the sixties. It also brought some memories back to me about my own family and how there are some light skin black people who do not like dark skin black people and how the one race can be divided by skin color and c ...more
Mar 15, 2016 Mi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just an ok coming of age story. I really can't recommend it.
Katie M.
Apr 11, 2011 Katie M. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I have a bad habit of only reading less-acclaimed works by famous authors, for no particular reason except maybe to be contrary, which never actually works since the only thing that happens is I end up missing out on a lot of fantastic books. This certainly isn't a bad read - it's just fine, and the writing is lovely. But I should probably go read Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo or for colored girls now.
I've been reading a lot of african american lit lately and i'd have to say on my scale of horrible, just alright, I liked it, to I loved it I'd have to say it was just alright.

I fell in love with Betsey Brown as if she were my own sister but I felt since the story was about her it could have been expounded though it seemed liked her family members overshadowed the main characters story.

Jan 11, 2008 Holli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2004
Bestey Brown is an 11-year-old black girl growing up in St. Louis during the first integration of black and white children in public schools. Her father is a doctor and a strong supporter of equal rights, her mother not as bold. Through a series of housekeepers/babysitters, her friends, her boyfriend, and her siblings, Betsey learns about growing up and being an individual.
Jul 02, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Betsey Brown is a sort of coming of age story about a black girl in St. Louis in the 50's. It's told mostly from Betsey's point of view, but sometimes shifts to the perspective of Betsey's mother, grandmother, and several other women in her life. The book explores themes of women's sexuality, racism, and class differences among black people. It was hard to put down.
Jan 22, 2013 Joan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shange wrote "For Colored Girls who've considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf" 20+ years ago. This is an intimate look at a black 13-year-old, daughter of a doctor and social worker in St. Louis in the 60s as the city began school desegregation. Quick, rich read.
This is a narrative about a thirteen year old girl living during the integration movement in 1957. I can not understand why her mother takes off from her family and her husband. The author does not tell the reader where she goes and I wish she had.
Feb 05, 2011 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I just don't appreciate this kind of writing. I like learning about the people and the situation; I just don't like the floaty, poetry-like quality of the prose. I prefer Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Jun 21, 2009 aya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
usually ntozake shange moooooves me. shakes me. this one was a little over the head at times and there wasn't as much of the beauty and color that i love so much, but still moments. she is ntozake shange. she can't ACTUALLY do wrong.
May 20, 2009 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book about an African American girl growing up in St. Louis during the time of school desegregation. The main character tries to navigate all that is going on around her and growing up at the same time.
May 05, 2008 Kecia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kiddie_lit
Love, loved it! Living in St. Louis it was fun to read about all the St. Louis landmarks and events. Sadly, St. Louis is still segregated city. It's not too different from Betsey's world 50 years ago.
Oct 12, 2012 Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though it is fiction, the book should be taught in History. Ask any kid (lets say ages 15 through 30) today about the 50 and 60's and race relations.
Need I say more.
Aug 07, 2008 Adrianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
coming of age story of a black girl in St. Louis in the 50s. really good portrayal of a black family with color, class, gender, and political differences.
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African-American ...: Betsey Brown: Book Blast 4 9 May 26, 2014 06:45AM  
This book is filed incorrectly 1 4 Jan 05, 2012 08:58AM  
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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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