{books} For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is EnufAuthor Ntozake Shange – Z55z.co

This revolutionary, awardwinning play by a lauded playwright and poet is a fearless portrayal of the experiences of women of color—“extraordinary and wonderful…that anyone can relate to” The New York Times and continues to move and resonate with readers today than everFrom its inception in California into its highly acclaimed critical success at Joseph Papp's Public Theater and on Broadway, the Obie Awardwinning for colored girls who have considered suicidewhen 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 inwhen it was praised by The New Yorker for encompassingevery feeling and experience a woman has ever had, for colored girls who have considered suicidewhen 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

10 thoughts on “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf

  1. Kei Kei says:


    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.

  2. Jenna Jenna says:

    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.

  3. Izetta Autumn Izetta Autumn says:

    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.

  4. Paul Paul says:

    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.

  5. Charlie Ramirez Charlie Ramirez says:

    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.

  6. Beth Beth says:

    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...

  7. Maxwell Maxwell says:

    I NEED to see this as a production. And I also need to reread it because WOW there are so many layers to it.

  8. Zanna Zanna says:

    '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!

  9. Adira Adira says:

    To see the full review go to my blog, Introvert Interrupted.

    This play was very interesting to read.

    Without seeing the work in action, I would have just chalked this read up as an overblown classic, but the visual representation made this piece one of my favorite...movies.

  10. Bren Bren says:

    “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.