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Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,863 ratings  ·  173 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 ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 15th 1996 by Picador (first published 1976)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
“Streets in Charleston wind the way old ladies’ fingers crochet as they unravel the memories of their girlhoods. One thing about a Charlestonian female is her way with little things. The delicacy of her manner. The force of ritual in her daily undertakings. So what is most ordinary is made extraordinary. What is hard seems simple.”- Ntozake Shange; Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo

What a beautiful, lyrical book. A tribute to black women trying to find themselves, black women who are trying to
Real Supergirl
Jun 01, 2007 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.
This was very different. Magical realism? Fantasy elements to the story for sure. I thoroughly enjoyed this very different look at the lives of these women.
“There wasn’t enough for Indigo in the world she’d been born to, so she made up what she needed. What she thought the black people needed.”

Steeped in sensuality, this is all about the magic of womanhood. We’re given the distinctive characters of the varyingly wild sisters Sassafrass, Cypress, Indigo, and they appear in stark contrast with their sensible mother. We see what makes them unique and what ties them together. It’s about self and about family.

You feel as you read the story. You feel
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.
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
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 500gbw, bechdel-pass
Fill a glass that sparkles in sunlight with pure spring water. Place one sprig of fresh mint in the water, and a mouthful of honey. Take your middle finger gently round the curve of your lips as you imagine your beloved might. Kiss the edges of the finger. Take a breath so deep your groin senses it. Hold your breath while envisioning your beloved’s face. Release the breath still picturing your beloved. Then with the kissed finger, make a circle round the rim of the glass 12 times, each time ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not at all what I expected and I absolutely loved this book! I loved the recipes, journal entries, spells and letters. There were hints of magical realism and at time you had to slow down and figure out the puzzles. I don't always like that, but Ntozake made it makes sense. I loved reading about Cypress the most! I want to know what happens with these beautiful sisters.
Sep 18, 2007 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.
Allison Hurd
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A friend recommended the poetry of this author and when I couldn't find that readily, I thought I might as well try a novel.

I have never been happier to come across something unknown. This is an utterly delightful book of family, finding yourself, and the magic of womanhood. Love suffuses every line--love for Blackness, for women, for humanity, for art. Even the difficult parts, the ugly parts are explored with compassion and grace. The words themselves sing.

Shange manages to make a world that
Apr 15, 2013 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 ...more
Aug 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Part of the reason I'm giving this book 3 stars is because I just can't get into magical realism. I struggled through "One Hundred Years of Solitude" for a week before giving up on it in frustration with only 100 pages left. I liked "Like Water for Chocolate" but the magic still felt awkward and arbitrary. My distaste for that genre is odd, since I enjoy fantasy books so much.
"Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo" confused me at least 1/4 of the time and I frequently had to go back and re-read
Feb 16, 2013 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 04, 2007 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 ...
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent coming of age story telling by Shange. Delicious recipes included, and vegan-izable.
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
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
I listened to this in two parts because my original library hold expired.

It was a hard read for me. I’m not super into poetry and it’s verybpoetic. I’m not fond of writing about music or art and this is basically all about those things.

But the stories of the sisters (and their mother) were interesting and it certainly was worth the time it took to read.
Aug 22, 2014 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 ...more
Feb 06, 2012 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
Cam Mannino
Aug 18, 2012 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 ...more
Lis Ursell
If you've ever asked yourself what lyrical prose looks like, this is it.

Love the incorporation of recipes (I might try to actually make some?). Cypress and Sassafrass seem real and relatable but also way, way cooler than me. I really wanted to see more of Indigo (and of the sisters together), so I docked a star for that and for the fact that I wish the narrative was a little more cohesive. One of the most poetic aspects of the novel is how at once beautifully naive Cypress and Sassafrass are,
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
Sep 20, 2014 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
Aug 23, 2007 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.
Oct 04, 2015 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.
Sep 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-books
I experienced this story on audio. What a delicious treat!
Read In Colour
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio-books
Didn't really care for it when I read it years ago. Giving the audio version a try to see if that makes a difference.
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
i wish it had focused on all the sisters stories equally but this is a really beautiful book. i love the way she writes!
This is lovely, especially if you enjoy magical realism.
Lindsey Z
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
*3.5 stars*
I loved getting to know these daughters and how they interpret Geechee culture as they go off to make their own lives amidst the Civil Rights Movement. Shange’s writing is sensual, soulful, and poetic. She connects dance to Africa, explores sexuality and sexual satisfaction through a variety of relationships (including woman to woman), and depicts the deep love between sisters, daughters, and mothers. Her female characters are strong, rebellious, and refuse to accept their lot as
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500 Great Books B...: Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo - Ntozake Shange 1 10 Jul 27, 2014 01:41PM  

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Ntozake Shange (pronounced En-toe-ZAHK-kay SHONG-gay) was 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.
“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.” 141 likes
“The slaves who were ourselves had known terror intimately, confused sunrise with pain, & accepted indifference as kindness.” 22 likes
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