Malcolm's Reviews > Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo

Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange
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Jul 23, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction-contemporary

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 considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf) and this novel – with its multiple forms including blank verse, recipes, and poetic imagery – is eloquent and beautiful. Shange's cultural knowledge is potent and a rich character in itself: she draws on multiple black art forms – textiles, dance, various musical forms – to celebrate women and both new and traditional knowledge. The New Afrikan cultural world it evokes will seem alien and odd to younger readers – but she brings it to life beautifully. I would have liked more of Indigo: she seems almost to frame the story and functions at the end as an almost conservative return to home in a deus ex machina manner. Despite this, there is much here to celebrate and revisit.
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