Lost in Language & Sound: A Memoir of Coming to the Arts

Ntozake Shange. St. Martin’s, $26.50 (160p) ISBN 978-0-312-20616-1
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Award-winning poet, playwright, and novelist Shange (Betsey Brown) immerses the reader in the written and spoken fabric of her upbringing and her life as an artist in this evocative melding of essay and memoir. Language is examined and celebrated, moving beyond the written word and into the realm of performance, particularly Shange’s most famous work, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, which she describes as a “choreopoem.” The raw power of her writing, from the subject matter to her unconventional punctuation, aligns perfectly with the crescendo of for colored girls’s success, beginning small in the backrooms of California’s bars and ending up on Broadway. Shange also hones in on language’s dual power of expression and exploitation, most adroitly in “2 Live Crew,” where she makes a compelling case against the misogynistic lyrics of many black male rap groups and their effect on black women. Music and dancing play huge roles in her life, from her parents’ penchant for jazz and blues to her own need to express herself through dance, as well as incorporating performance into her written work. In “dear daddy, ‘el amor que tu me das...,’” one of the quietest and most moving pieces despite its aural undertones, Shange tells her deceased father that there’s “no music I hear without sensing you.” This is a profoundly personal yet all-encompassing exploration of words, movement, and the state of race in America. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2011
Release date: 12/06/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-7927-8469-2
Compact Disc - 4 pages - 978-0-7927-8468-5
Compact Disc - 4 pages - 978-1-60998-965-1
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-1-250-03556-1
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