Ntozake Shange is best known as the playwright who combined dance, poetry, and music in 1975’s groundbreaking sensation for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. In a change of gears and attitude, Shange published a conventional semi-autobiographical novel called Betsey Brown in 1985. Betsey Brown tells the story of a sensitive and thoughtful African-American girl as she struggles to understand her place in the world. While many of Shange’s earlier works are both stylistically experimental and politically aggressive, Betsey Brown is accessible and understated. In it, Shange offers a richly descriptive coming-of-age story, taking place in 1959 St. Louis, whose universal themes of sexuality and morality are set against the backdrop of the school desegregation crisis. The novel also portrays the conflicts among family members, centering on the discontent of Betsey’s mother, Jane. Like Shange’s more radical works, Betsey Brown focuses on the difficulties of coming to terms with racial and feminine identity for black women. It is also often noted for being one of the few novels of its time to focus on black middle-class characters. In this novel Shange portrays the small and large struggles of a thirteen-year-old girl while lovingly sketching the way of life in an all-black middleclass enclave at a time when the incipient Civil Rights Movement agitated for integration. Though many critics find Betsey Brown lacking in literary power, it remains a favorite on high school reading lists.