for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf Form and Content

Ntozake Shange

Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

While certainly a dramatic work, meant primarily to be performed, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf is not a play in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a series of twenty loosely related poems intended to be recited by seven actresses, with dance integrated into the performance. Ntozake Shange (pronounced “en-toh-ZAH-kee SHAHN-gay”), in fact, calls the work not a play but a “choreopoem.” The cast consists of seven unnamed actresses/dancers, designated simply as lady in brown, lady in yellow, lady in purple, lady in red, lady in green, lady in blue, and lady in orange. In a performance, the seven actresses trade off the leading role, change characters, interrupt one another, dance to accompany one another’s recitations, and create a unified whole out of the disparate material of the poems.

Among the important themes in the work are issues related to growing up, especially growing up as an African American girl. One poem, “toussaint,” concerns an eight-year-old girl in St. Louis in 1955 who wins the library’s summer reading contest after discovering a biography of Haitian slave revolt leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. When it is discovered that she read books from the adult reading room, however, she is disqualified from the contest. She decides in her dejection to run away to Haiti and meet her hero Toussaint. After leaving home, she meets and befriends a little boy (whose name turns out to be...

(The entire section is 535 words.)