She was born Paulette Linda Williams. But we all know her as Ntozke Shange: ‘she who walks with lions.’
What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said over the past 40, almost 50 years that it has been in print. We know the Tyler Perry movie was adapted from this book. We know it is a choreopoem. In 1975, Shange describes a choreopoem this way:
A choreopoem is a form of dramatic expression that combines poetry, dance, music, and song.
Simply stated, this poem, this book, this work was always meant to be performed. To be acted out.
To make us as Black women visible.
In this work, in celebrating this work, I am comforted by her own words in regards to how and why she writes:
This book is a love letter to every Black girl: past, present and future. It is a look at hope, joy, loss, pain and grief–and resilience. She wrote this book, created this play, coined this term so we didn’t think we would have to die to be listened to.
She heard us before we cried. She saw us before we could see ourselves. This is the mystic nature of writing, of being an oracle, a scribe. This is the job no one talks about. We write to leave a trail, a map and a way out. An escape from the ordinary into the extraordinary.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.