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For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuff by ntozake shange
A Holy Experience
How do I begin to discuss this book/play/poem? Reading it is almost a holy experience. One line from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Enough provides the best description: “A laying on of hands.” That line, which comes almost at the end of the production, means one is touched by holy hands – hands serving as a conduit for God. That’s what it feels like to experience this story.
Dramatic Presentation & Universal Characters
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enough has stage directions like a play, yet the text is poetic, making it a choreographed poem, or, as ms. shange calls it, a choreopoem. There are seven nameless characters; we know them only by the color of their dresses: lady in brown, lady in yellow, lady in red, lady in green, lady in purple, lady in blue, lady in orange. We learn their stories through intermittent glimpses into their lives and finally get a complete picture once they begin to interact with each other.
Love is the Focus
The overall focus is on the ladies’ love lives-- or the crap they’ve put up with in the name of love. They talk of date rape, physical abuse, verbal abuse, cheating men and men who have used them and then walked away. But ms. shange counters all the negativity with the love of music and dance and the resilient nature of the women who get dumped on but are always ready to begin again. They tell of death and resurrection.
Weeping Transitions to Joy
One of my favorite lines comes from the lady in yellow when she says, “…it was all I had but bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical dilemma/I haven’t conquered yet. That is the overall state in which all the women find themselves—how to be Black and female and joyful at the same time. Life has taught them that they can not be all three. Yet, by the end of the play, having been broken completely open, they all do find the source of that joy.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enough is not an easy read. Ms. Shange does not use capital letters or any punctuation marks. She does use slash marks to denote line breaks, but even they seem uneven at times. She also uses phonetic spellings and symbols instead of words in many instances. Because of the time period the story covers and the unfamiliar setting, some of the references are obscure. The biggest obstacle is its puzzle-like story telling. The reader starts out thinking she has to piece together each woman's story individually but eventually understands that it doesn’t matter who is talking, each story is the same at its core. Once that realization occurs, reading takes on that holiness I spoke of earlier. It is the understanding of that holiness that makes the title clear: the women have been pushed close to the edge but find what they need to move toward their own rainbows.
New Version Coming Soon to Theaters Near You
Tyler Perry’s movie version, For Colored Girls, comes out Friday, November 5, 2010. I can hardly wait to see how he has translated the story to the big screen. In an interview on Oprah, he said the idea of making it into a movie terrified him, but the story kept calling. We’ll soon see what he heard.