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Writing Counternarratives: Authorizing The Black Woman’s Autobiographical Voice By Reading Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls As Life Narrative

Chereka C. Dickerson, Illinois State University

Imported from ProQuest Dickerson_ilstu_0092E_11296.pdf


Black women’s autobiographical writings have historically been ignored, dismissed, and overlooked. As a result, black women have been forced to subvert the genre of autobiography through their autobiographical writings. Ntozake Shange’s 1975 choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (hereafter for colored girls) is an exemplar of a black woman’s autobiographical text that subverts the genre of autobiography. for colored girls is a collective life narrative of black womanhood, meaning that it tells black women’s life narrative as a collective, to give presence and voice to black women as whole. By writing this collective autobiographical text, Shange confronts master narratives of black womanhood, namely the mammy, matriarch, and jezebel, by writing a counternarrative of black womanhood to have agency over telling black women’s stories. In addition to reading for colored girls as a collective life narrative, I write my life narrative in interchapters (chapters between chapters), also a counternarrative, in order to provide nuance to the black woman’s collective voice, and also to place my life narrative in conversation with Shange’s narrative to demonstrate that both Shange and I are doing the same recovery work of life writing, reclaiming black women’s historically ignored, dismissed, and overlooked autobiographical voices, and securing black women’s autobiographical authority, agency, and subjectivity.