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For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf

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In celebration of its highly anticipated Broadway revival, Ntozake Shange’s classic, award-winning play centering the wide-ranging experiences of Black women, now with introductions by two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward and Broadway director Camille A. Brown.

From its inception in California in 1974 to its Broadway revival in 2022, the Obie Award–winning for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has excited, inspired, and transformed audiences all over the country for nearly fifty years. Passionate and fearless, Shange’s words reveal what it meant to be a woman of color in the 20th century. First published in 1975, when it was praised by The New Yorker for “encompassing…every feeling and experience a woman has ever had,” for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf will be read and performed for generations to come. Now with new introductions by Jesmyn Ward and Broadway director Camille A. Brown, and one poem not included in the original, here is the complete text of a groundbreaking dramatic prose poem that resonates with unusual beauty in its fierce message to the world.

64 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1975

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About the author

Ntozake Shange

67 books708 followers
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.

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5 stars
17,648 (52%)
4 stars
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3 stars
4,501 (13%)
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573 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,051 reviews
Profile Image for Keisha.
112 reviews
August 31, 2018

I thoroughly understand poetic license and the art of using vernacular in literature. Langston Hughes has taught me well. ;-)

February, 2011
This book is not a novel. It is a choreopoem of fictional stories told by characters who all represent a color worn, i.e. Lady in Red, Lady in Yellow, Lady in Purple, etc. The title alone being the first clue, this is also not a timeless piece. I’ll just get right to why I give this book one star. I despise intentional misspellings of words. It is one of my more severe pet peeves. I never wanted to read this book in the past because seeing the word “enough” spelled “enuf” irked me tremendously. Throughout the book, all of the poems are told in broken English (because that's obviously the only way to hear a black voice in literature) and lots of words are either misspelled or not spelled at all, for example, “could” is spelled “cd.”

There is an art to capturing the true voice of a character; and if that character is "ill-spoken," then there is a way to transfer that voice and still have it flow nicely as words on a page. I didn't like the way it was done in this piece; however there are many [BLACK] authors who have mastered this technique and have done so beautifully and provocatively -- and not just for the sake of showing a character's inability otherwise.

I don’t like the word “colored” to describe a person. I don’t respect the idea of taking an oppressive word and capitalizing off of it; and capitalizing off of the grief that accompanies the word’s connotation. Apparently, there are only a few stories to tell about "colored girls" and, given the collections of books available to the masses that are along the same order; those stories are all disgusting and sad. These colored girls are tormented souls and maybe they’re so tormented because they refer to and see themselves as “colored,” because honestly, I must profess that being a black woman is really not that big of a deal. In fact, I quite enjoy it and don’t see my skin color as a direct attachment to all things sorrowful, painful, diseased, abused, and oppressed. The book’s title says “For Colored Girls,” but perhaps, this book is not for me. I am not saying my personal life has been all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, but how many people of ANY shade can say that about their own lives?

“But this is real." I know, I know... and my response to that is this: Women, if this is what you’re constantly attaching yourselves to, then you allow it to become your stigma, thus YOUR reality. Women... WOMEN go through this, NOT just “colored” women. There are so many women who will read these poems and relate to everything except the skin tone. So why is it that some authors have chosen to make universal experiences exclusive to one race and one sex? ”Sing a black girl’s song!” Let’s keep our sorrow alive and let the world cry with us. And then what? We hope that "colored girls" who are actually not children, but grown women, will make better decisions in life? Will they go to college, use birth control and condoms, and stop dating guys named "Beaux Willie?"

People really don't care about this being "real." They read it, say "ooh that's so sad" and go on sipping their lattes, while we stay and fight the preconceived stigmas... the same stories told in various forms of mass media over and over again until one image is indelibly printed in the minds of the masses.

In addition to the aforementioned, main foibles, many of the characters needed to take responsibility for their own poor choices in the scenarios, yet they failed to do so in their own deliveries. For example, the characters Beaux Willie and Crystal, Crystal tells the story. She had been with Beaux Willie since she was thirteen years old. He went away to war and returned crazy and abusive. He was also jobless. Together, they had two children and she worked to support him and her children. At some point, Beaux Willie decided he wanted to marry Crystal, who suddenly realized that she shouldn’t marry him. He was no longer good enough. She told him this while calling him all kinds of names including the N-word. So... he took her children and dangled them out of an open window five stories high. He asked her if she loved him and if so, will she marry him? And Crystal whispered a response... Listen... [Anyone with the smallest dose of common sense knows that you should always go along with crazy people. Tell them whatever they want to hear until they calm down and step out of their moment of craziness]. Well, Beaux Willie didn't like whatever she whispered and in response, he dropped the kids out of the window. He murdered their children.

And this is what everyone is calling realistic? Can it happen? Yeah, I’m sure it can, but I don’t know a black woman on this planet who would have allowed that to happen without a knife being jabbed deep into Beaux Willie’s back. The children wouldn’t have been the only ones murdered that day.

I am also disgusted by the people on the street who stood there and watched the children dangling from the window. No one thought to run into their own house and grab a mattress or something huge and soft for the kids to land on? Or no one thought to gather around underneath where they were hanging, to at least try to catch them? This could have prevented their death and maybe they would have only ended up with twisted ankles or a broken arm.

And so these are the reasons why I do not love this piece. When a fictional story contains extreme, unbelievable, preventive stupidity, I am impatient and completely unsympathetic towards the characters. I am not bribed into feeling emotionally attached simply because I am massivley told that I should be, since I am "of color."
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
770 reviews1,148 followers
April 25, 2020
If there is ever a time in the future when people are able to gather together in groups again, I want to see a performance of For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.

It is beautiful, passionate, real, gritty, lyrical. I felt like I was reading a song. 

It's a poem performed by 7 women, each one of them representing a colour of the rainbow, and one the colour brown. They speak of their experiences as Black women, their dreams and their sorrows. Of abortion and AIDS and abandonment. Of rape and racism. Of longing and love, racism and violence.

It is written in the women's vernacular which adds a rich and authentic element to the poem. I won't claim to have "gotten" all the layers of meaning, but I will claim that I enjoyed it very much. And maybe I can't see the performance right now, but I'm glad I could at least read the book.
Profile Image for Izetta Autumn.
418 reviews
July 20, 2007
The ish. A pivotal work in theatre. I once heard Ntozake Shange explain that one of her goals as a writer was to break down the English language, to undo, redo, replay, and rework the English language, in such a way that its power for white supremacist goals and idea transfer would be rendered useless. Now that's all types of deep - this idea that language can teach us destruction and prejudice and by deconstructing that language those who have been oppressed can reclaim and enter into the very language that had formerly been exclusive - creating something new entirely.

This sentiment reminds me a great deal of the book Rolling the R's which also complicates and obliterates ideas of language, grammar, and syntax.

I love reading this while listening to Nina Simone - particularly Four Women.
Profile Image for Brina.
887 reviews4 followers
January 22, 2021
It’s hard to believe that the first month of 2021 is almost over. This month has been tough as I have made substitute teaching into a full time job. Thankfully, I have enjoyed my time with the students or I would not have gotten through this stretch. One thing I have stuck to is my reading challenges. Even with life at its busiest, I am nearly half way done with my century of African American women writers challenge. By selecting shorter works- poetry, short stories, and plays-, I have been able to read a number of selections even if none of them have reached one hundred pages in length. Length should not be the only criterion in judging a work’s quality, and I have been wowed by the works I have read thus far. Today is our first full day of a mid winter break and I selected a ground breaking work from the 1970s by Ntozake Shange, my first play of the year. This was not easy to get through but a play that every woman should read nonetheless.

Ntozake Shange first began working on For Colored Girls in 1972. It started as a dialogue for a character named Cypress who later became one of the sisters in a later work. The narrative merged into a poetry play for seven parts and developed on Shange’s drive from San Francisco to New York. Her sister Ifa saw a nascent performance and envisioned larger ideas for this work. By 1976, the two sisters had combined their creative ideas and For Colored Girls debuted in New York, making it all the way to Broadway. At the time, Shange admitted that she wrote this play for colored women although after forty five years it has become a play for every woman, undergoing multiple revisions and societal changes over the years. During the 1970s, Shange admitted that every colored man in America was out to get her because the play revealed the ills befalling colored girls’ relationships everywhere. In some instances, she even needed a bodyguard, but Shange and her play prevailed.

I was not around during the 1970s but women’s rights at the forefront of society it was natural for colored women to want their place in the movement. Colored Girls became seven women, each another color of the rainbow, all various hues from brown to black. Many of the scenes are hard to digest but this is Shange telling it like it was. The characters share a womanhood, speaking of failed relationships, rape- this scene challenges the status quo as to who is a rapist and is extremely powerful. The centerpiece featuring the lady in brown who speaks of too many societal ills to list is moving and had me seething. Lady in brown entered a library summer reading contest and would have won but was disqualified because her biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture had come from the adult section of the library. Rather than encouraging the girl to read, the library said no, so lady in brown took her book and decided to flee to Haiti where slaves were free. Before she can escape, she encounters Toussaint Jones, who convinces her that it’s fine in St. Louis, and the two fall into a new relationship, continuing the societal cycle of poverty, teenage pregnancy, etc. Lady in yellow gave up her virginity on graduation night and noted that it “felt mighty fine.” That scene lead to the discussion on rape, one that is still going on today, leading Shange in her introduction to state that every woman should study this work.

The colors of the rainbow must have a dramatic effect on stage, all the women having each other’s back. The psychedelic music from the 1970s only add to the effect of the different colors highlighted at different points of the production. Shange updated the script as different ills befall society. In the 2010 version she writes of the new AIDS crisis and PTSD suffered by returning veterans from Iraq. A scene featuring Crystal and Beau Willie Brown has been revised from the original production. This scene is heartbreaking to begin with as it features undo violence to young children. In the modern version, Beau Willie Brown has continual nightmares about his tour in Iraq. He wants Crystal to marry him, but she wants a restraining order and to see him behind bars. Jail or a halfway house would be the safest place for him, not as an unstable father to two young children. The other six women have Crystal’s back, and the scene with Beau Willie Brown and the children brings the play to its end. Each woman speaks of finding the end to her own personal rainbow before the troubles plaguing society overtake them all.

I am unsure if I would have read this game changing work if I didn’t need a work written during the 1970s to help me to complete a challenge. Ntozake Shange is a gifted poet, playwright, and novelist, but at least in this instance, her writing is a little dark for me. I read this work and I get frustrated about the same issues that have been plaguing women of color, at least the urban ones, for decades. Even a girl who excelled at reading was denied the chance to earn a prize because she read above her reading level. And what happens? She ends up with a boy on the street after I hoped that she had a bright future in store. I am willing to give Shange another chance because the titles of her other works sound as colorful as the rainbow depicted in this one. By continuing to read and discuss Shange’s work at length, I hope that colored girls can eventually find the end of their personal rainbow. After reading this play I can see that it’s long overdue.

🌈 4 + stars 🌈
Profile Image for Paul.
1,161 reviews1,921 followers
January 18, 2020
This is a choreopoem and is a series of twenty poems for a cast of seven principals: they are Ladies in Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple and Brown. It expresses the struggles and problems that African-American women face; and amazingly it’s 45 years old now. The poems are linked by music. Subjects addressed include rape, domestic violence, loss, abortion and being abandoned. This is based on Shange’s own experience.
I have read this rather than seen a production of it and obviously it would be much more powerful on stage. There is a film as well which I also haven’t seen, but will look out for.
There is so much in this and Shange dissects the relationship between black women and black men as well as looking at how black women are portrayed:
“ever since i realized there waz someone callt
a colored girl an evil woman a bitch or a nag
i been trying not to be that & leave bitterness
in somebody else’s cup”
Shange’s candour has been criticized for highlighting this issue, but she is clear what her focus is:
“sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
care/struggle/hard times
sing her song of life
she’s been dead so long
closed in silence so long
she doesn’t know the sound of her own voice
her infinite beauty”
Shange also says what she has to say with a deal of humour as well:
“without any assistance or guidance from you
i have loved you assiduously for 8 months 2 wks & a day
i have been stood up four times
i've left 7 packages on yr doorstep
forty poems 2 plants & 3 handmade notecards i left
town so i cd send to you have been no help to me
on my job
you call at 3:00 in the mornin on weekdays
so i cd drive 27 1/2 miles cross the bay before i go to work
charmin charmin
but you are of no assistance
i want you to know
this waz an experiment
to see how selifsh i cd be
if i wd really carry on to snare a possible lover
if i waz capable of debasin my self for the love of another
if i cd stand not being wanted
when i wanted to be wanted
& i cannot
with no further assistance & no guidance from you
i am endin this affair

this note is attached to a plant
i've been waterin since the day i met you
you may water it
yr damn self”
Shange grew up in the midst of the civil rights movement and the turbulence of the 1960s and it shows in this; she is making a point not just to black men, but to the white feminist movement as well. There is a pattern of frustration as well; an alienation and loneliness because issues with black men. There has been an ongoing debate surrounding this which has been well documented.
It was also interesting to see a walk on part for Toussaint L’Overture.
This is a powerful piece of work with many layers and a powerful and significant message. I hope to see it on stage one day; but in the meantime I will look out for the film.
21 reviews1 follower
November 2, 2010
For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf has been the most profound, interesting, mind- blowing books I have come across this year. This was my first time being introduced to a chore poem, which is simply a collection of poems that have been strategically put together into one novel. One thing I learned from Shange, the author, is the attention to the title of the book. Upon reading the first three words of the title, "For colored girls..." you assume that the word colored pertains to their skin color, more specifically, black women. However, upon reading through the poems, none of the characters are known by name. They are simple labeled 'the lady in blue' or 'the lady in red'. Each girl is labeled by a color. Each color serves as a symbolic meaning for each girl. For example, the poem that contains the lady in red is suffering from domestic violence, which red serves as a metaphor. Largely unique for the style of the book, For Colored Girls may be one of my new favorite books.
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,564 reviews262 followers
February 1, 2023
“my spirit is too ancient to understand the separation of soul & gender”
― Ntozake Shange, For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

I never forgot this. I first saw the play way back in my childhood years and it's raw power absolutely stunned me. We also had the album. It remains, in my mind, one of the best plays I ever saw.

Do consider reading this book especially if you have not seen the play.
Profile Image for Beth.
368 reviews
July 2, 2017
This is one of those books I refer too a lot. Like written prayers sometimes say things in a way that resonates so well with me, so too does this book of poetry.

Ever since I realized there waz someone callt/
a colored girl an evil woman a bitch or a nag/
i been tryin not to be that & leave bitterness/
in somebody else's cup...
Profile Image for Dona.
436 reviews78 followers
March 14, 2023
I read this in paperback; it sat on my shelf entirely too long.

This book isn't a novel, but rather it is a play written in verse. There is a full cast of characters, all of whom I found easy to distinguish, both as they moved around through stage directions, and as they represented the characters progressing through the narrative. The story (perhaps better described as a set of short narratives?) is rich and covers a huge range of topics and emotional tones and textures. It is many things, but this book is also interesting. I truly loved the form, as I feel it maximized Shange's ability to reveal more about her subjects of interest, American black women, and their interests, and the bogeyman that plague them.

This is a wonderful read; short in length only, but if you give it the consideration it needs, it will take some time to read. Please consider this my trigger warning, as this book contains accounts of violence against women and children, and of SA, and harassment.

Rating: 🤎💛💜❤💚 / 5 women in dresses
Recommendation: Absolutely, read this!
Finished: March 13 2023
Read this if you like:
🎭 Plays / drama
✒️ Poetry or books in verse
😭 Tragedy
👩‍👧‍👦 Stories about families
👩🏾‍🦱 Stories by/about black women
Profile Image for Bri.
Author 1 book176 followers
February 14, 2021
“i am really colored & really sad & sometimes you hurt me.”

A timeless, innovative, heartbreaking, and gorgeous work. I read the whole thing out loud and the experience was almost transcendent. I definitely want to watch the PBS production with Lynn Whitfield.
Profile Image for Julio Pino.
803 reviews37 followers
February 16, 2023
This savage play takes us from the backseat of a car to the bosom of an unloving family to brutally depict what it is like to grow up young, female and Black in USA. An unforgettable monologue.
Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews941 followers
January 26, 2014
'coloured' (minoritised, othered in their skin, colonised OR vibrant, various, multifaceted) 'girls' (infantilised, sexually exploited and pathologised, excluded from woman/lady OR youthful, spirited, free, pure-hearted) , five Black women… speaking in the safe space of loving affirmation between them, poetising rawness of pain and beauty, passion and exhaustion...

No respectability politics. Don't start telling these women what they should have done. These are words of possibility and impossibility. They did what was possible and cried for what was impossible

Feminists are saying NOW what Shange says here about rape culture… (how strongly can I echo the words of Black feminists/womanists and say we White women have to hear Black women and get behind them on this, because not only are they hurt by male violence but by the violence of a law-and-order feminism that signifies on the plantation narrative of Black men as a threat to White women)

Colour is sweetness here with bitter linings... is worn with glitter... orange butterflies and aqua sequins… on bodies glowing with femme charms to take their pleasure from men who can't be loved, men who hurt their hearts and utter cheap apologies, men who even destroy their lives. The nourishing saving love they live on is for each other. Shange's ladies in red brown blue purple yellow step from the stage leaving space for the queer coloured girls to dance their songs...

I'm hoping to go see a production of this soon!
Profile Image for chantel nouseforaname.
624 reviews304 followers
March 3, 2023
I’ve been reading Black Women Writers at Work by Claudia Tate and its incredible. Reading through the interviews with Toni Morrison and Toni Cade Bambara… it’s so interesting how much they upheld their sister Ntozake Shange and For Colored Girls and the truths that she shared with her work.

I’ve read this choreopoem numerous times throughout the years, but decided to jump into again yesterday and dive deep and swim and swim.. I rewatched the Tyler Perry adaptation and it was a vibe. That film is a cultural touchstone of mess with its memes and all that but you know what.. It’s what my spirit wanted and I’m happy to oblige when Ntozake Shange calls out to me. There’s pain, power, purpose, community, strength and vulnerability in For Colored Girls, and in each of the women presented. All the colors speak to me, and every woman contains every color.

For Colored Girls is truly a masterpiece. It’s amazing to read Claudia Tate’s Black Women Writers at Work and get into what our legendary queens have to say about it!
Profile Image for Craig Cunningham.
44 reviews44 followers
September 23, 2010

I read this book a million years ago.Well, to bespecific back in 1975, around the time of its original publication. However, I have read it several more times since then, and I have seen the Play performed more than five times. The play presents an overwhelming expereience that embraces the audience member in a cultural experience of the African American woman and other women in the African Diaspora. The reading of the text and the viewing of the original play present a sometimes bleek, daunting, view of life, but the expressive hope that looms through much of the poetry offers a vibrant potential for change. I really enjoy the book, because of the specifics with which Ntozake Shange approaches words. She is a wordsmith. She carefully sculpts, massages, and molds the words to create this tapestry of emotion and brilliance. Now that this textual call for revolution will be made into a motion picture, I pray that the original revolutionary, nationalist, feminist, and cultural paradigms in this piece shall not be exploited or removed to fit into a 21st century framework for a simple story wrapped up in a bow. I love this piece, and I really believe in theatre, this piece started a genre of pieces in the sixties and seventies in which characters speaking directly to the audience extolled their feelings, emotional wreckages, and depths of intensity through the catacombs of cultural examination. Another play, which does not have the same depth as Ms. Shange's work, is the Runaways, which was a Broadway production as well. I really enjoy works this this, and Ntozake Shange does fantastic work in this area.
Profile Image for Bobbieshiann.
313 reviews89 followers
January 3, 2020
“Ever since i realized there waz someone callt a colored girl an evil woman a bitch or a nag i been tryin not to be that & leave bitterness in somebody else’s cup.”

My first read of 2020 is a journey that should not be taken lightly. A cheropoem that is for women, written by a woman, and be stopped by no one. Ntozake tells the story of 7 women who have endured sexism, rape, body shaming, racism, and more. These women are represented as colors of the rainbow and are connected as they put on a performance to display their pain. They show strength and bring awareness to what is hardly discussed in this time. They bring forth what it is to be a woman of color and I understand that there has been backlash for supposedly bashing men, but this is not for men and yet in this cheropoem, the women desire men and love them, and ache for that love to be returned.

I now understand why this choreopoem has been carried on over the years. I am pretty sure we are familiar with Tyler Perry’s version of a For Colored Girls. You can picture the movie as your reading and it makes me applaud Ntozake for going against the norm and speaking so many women’s truth. For Colored Girls is ground breaking and does not end in sorrow. These women show strength and close with, “i found god in myself & i love her/ i loved her fiercely.”

Profile Image for Liz Janet.
582 reviews381 followers
October 28, 2019
Read this before seeing the film, it is worth it. This play is one of the strongest stories about abuse and discrimination, from almost all aspects that I have had the great pleasure of reading.

I have seen many people criticize how the characters were represented, some even claiming that the characters could have taken more “responsibility” for what happened to them, and I am very sure that these people missed one of the messages of the story, that people are flawed, and that sometimes it is hard to leave. For example, someone criticized one of the characters who was being abused by her partner/husband physically and emotionally, and she stayed with him. This person said that she should just have left, but to abuse victims it is often not that easy. There is also an instance of a mother’s abuse towards her daughter, and this person said that she could once more leave and make her own fortune. I am now convinced that this person has no knowledge of abuse, economics, or the cultural upbringing some people are raised with.

It is a very trigger filled play, so one must look at it with caution. My favourite part was the depiction of rape, including that even people we know can do it, rape is no longer a stranger in a dark alley, but ti can be a neighbour, someone we consider a best friend.
Profile Image for Lisa.
95 reviews157 followers
February 16, 2019
what i didnt expect this sadday
a kick to my womangut, bleeding out colours
a choreopoem


and now im all bent outta shape in my apartment with my
white walls
white snow
white skin
dead blank canvas being scored by these raw words

i roll over and take it
Profile Image for La Tonya  Jordan.
283 reviews89 followers
July 4, 2018
Words that do not truly come to life until you see the theatrical stage version. Life is painfully and joyfully at the same time.


little sally walker, sittin in a saucer
rise, sally, rise, wipe your weepin eyes
an put your hands on your hips
an let your backbone slip
o, shake it to the east
o, shake it to the west
shake it to the one
that you like the best

lady in purple
you're it
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books687 followers
February 20, 2019
Well...god damn.

This is a "choreopoem"--sort of play. It felt a lot like one of the American tragedies, but distinctly Ntozake's take on the plight of being a woman of color. Evocative, rageful, sorrowful, coy and loving, I could almost see the dancers and the lighting direction.

So, so good. I would have loved to have seen it performed!

Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,709 reviews928 followers
July 20, 2015
I have to say that I loved this play. It was a bit weird to read the stage directions along with the poetry that was being said by these characters, but it was quite easy to read and follow.

For colored girls is considered a choreopoem (i.e. there are monologues that also include dance and music) with seven women in different colors speaking to the audience.

The seven women are the lady in red, lady in orange, lady in yellow, lady in green, lady in blue, lady in brown, and lady in purple.

Some of the poems really spoke to me a lot and the play tackles so many different subjects such as rape, abortion, domestic violence.

Some of the language was a bit harsh too. There were a lot of n words and some ethnic slurs in there too. I wouldn't recommend to those who may be easily offended and who may not want to read about some of the subjects of this play.

lady in brown
& this is for colored girls who have considered
suicide/but are movin to the ends of their own

Profile Image for Cassie.
146 reviews11 followers
June 5, 2016
This book is so much more powerful than the movie that is made from it. This book showcases beautifully the experience of African-American females. While I never can fully understand their experience as a gay white male I feel that I was drawn into their world by Shange's words. I was able to feel their joy, pain, and suffering. This book moved me to emotions that I didn't believe a book would be able to do and now I find myself sometimes saying one of the poems to myself in my head frequently about "he nearly left widda all my stuff". When a book can resonate and stay with you days after you have read it that is when you know that you have just read something either truly great or truly bad. This one is squarely in the truly great category that got me thinking about the differences and the similarities between all human beings regardless of their color.
Profile Image for Kathy-Ann Fletcher.
38 reviews2 followers
February 9, 2015
I believe every word of this book. It is honest and real and gives a voice to a marginalised but strong set of women. It is definitely one of my favourite books ever. Absolutely a gem of literature.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,287 reviews730 followers
January 16, 2019
i loved you on purpose
i was open on purpose
i still crave vulnerability & close talk
& i'm not even sorry bout you bein sorry
you can carry all the guilt & grime ya wanna
just dont give it to me
i cant use another sorry
next time
you should admit
you're mean/low-down/triflin/& no count straight out
steada bein sorry all the time
enjoy bein yrself

I knew I was setting myself up for a less than complete experience by reading this play script rather than seeing the play performed, but after such a long school period of being trained on the reading of myriad Shakespeare plays, the comparatively inaccessible means of watching specific ones, whether filmed or live, leads me to choose to experience in whatever form I come first upon and worry about better means of exposure later. Plays don't get a lot of traction these days whether on GR or in real life, leastwise to my untutored gaze, so this and A Raisin in the Sun remain remarkable for being some of the best known examples outside of the Shakespearean monopoly, and how outside that monopoly the very structural fiber of this play is. It almost begs to be not seen or herd but witnessed, borderline liturgical in its confessions and damnations and revelations, even tending towards celebrations amongst the deprivations that continue to plague black womanhood near a half century later. My personal rating is helped by this comprehension as much as it is hindered by the form by which this choreopoem comes to me. A later, more holistic performance awaits, but when and by what means I will encounter it, I do not yet know.

This work didn't really start coming together for me till the very end, and it ultimately left me somewhat moved but neither totally blown over or completely in hatred. There's a number of random Internet strangers I've recently come into contact with through a discord group who I know would throw conniptions over the choices of spelling and capitalization Shange makes, but I've read too much and too widely to still be bothered by such trivial nitpicking, so it wasn't the framing that interfered with as much as it was what came with The Bluest Eye, where I acknowledge that my personal experience and that of every white chick under the sun will forever lack the resources, nay, the paradigm needed to encounter this narrative of black womanhood and resonate with it in any way deeper than a murmur near completely superficial with its white washing. Fortunately, the average rating for this work is just fine and likely filled with the recognition of those who have actually seen this performed rather than merely the words on their pages, and as I am committed to accompanying my reading in the same manner, I'm not too concerned about my own lackluster appraisal. These aren't the kinds of pains or pleasures that have buffetted me throughout my own experience, and my recognition of the need for such stories to be told in whatever forms they choose has next to nothing to do with such a simple representation as an honest star rating.

It's early enough in the year for me to be keeping track of the number of books read on the fingers of one hand, and while this work is nowhere near the top, I find it good to stretch my reading faculties so early on. I don't often read plays these days, and this and another work are likely the only representatives of the genre amidst my shelves, leastwise off the top of my head. I don't particularly see myself seeking out more scripts, but I'm hoping this will be ameliorated by my graduating from text to to live performance even if that should take place far further in the future than I unconsciously assume. The 21st century doesn't seem to have been to kind to plays, but that may be sufficient reason to dig the relatively buried examples out from the usual muffled demographics. A project for a time when I'm more in the mood. In the meantime, I have a growing pile of translated behemoths to pin down to my satisfaction, and such projects wait on no woman.
i sat up one nite walking a boardin house
screamin/cryin/the ghost of another woman
who wz missin what i was missin
i wanted to jump up outta my bones
& be done wit myself
leave me alone
& go on in the wind
it waz too much
i fell into a numbness
til the only tree i cd see
took me up in her branches
held me in the breeze
made me dawn dew
that chill at daybreak
the sun wrapped me up swingin rose light everywhere
the sky laid over me like a million men
i waz cold/i waz burnin up/a child
& endlessly weavin garments for the moon
wit my tears

i found god in myself
& i loved her/i loved her fiercely
Profile Image for Marlana-Patrice.
2 reviews13 followers
October 30, 2010
I have seen the play version twice including the touring company with some of the original cast members like the amazing Trazana Beverley. Yesterday, reading the actual choreopoem in its entirety for the first time gave me more insight and understanding of the poets' intentions. There are moments of joy as well as sheer despair in this piece. In other words, Shange covers a wide range of colored girl emotions. Her work is also ground-breaking because of its experimentation with form and content. For instance, she consistently shortened words, something that hip-hop culture does all of the time now. Considering that this work was first copyrighted back in the 1970's shows that she was probably one of the first to experiment with words and ideas in this manner. She boldly thrusts words of the street into her piece too which tells me that this well-educated woman was not afraid to tap into the lives of everyday people, especially their raw experiences. Some of my favorite poems are "Toussaint" and "Someone Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff." The former poignantly tells about first loves. While the latter is told in the voice of experienced hurt. I can totally relate to both of these arresting poems. Another way that this book is so accessible is that it draws you in and makes you have to read it in one day. It is quite short so that is easily accomplished. In sum, I know this work will remain a universal force. It has touched so many people, not just colored girls or feminists. Now that it has been transformed into a movie version, this seminal work will without a doubt touch a whole new generation of readers.
Profile Image for Mariah Roze.
1,015 reviews920 followers
December 30, 2020
I enjoyed the read and hope to see this on stage at some point.

"From its inception in California in 1974 to its highly acclaimed critical success at Joseph Papp's Public Theater and on Broadway, the Obie Award-winning for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has excited, inspired, and transformed audiences all over the country. Passionate and fearless, Shange's words reveal what it is to be of color and female in the twentieth century. First published in 1975 when it was praised by The New Yorker for "encompassing...every feeling and experience a woman has ever had," for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf will be read and performed for generations to come. Here is the complete text, with stage directions, of a groundbreaking dramatic prose poem written in vivid and powerful language that resonates with unusual beauty in its fierce message to the world."
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