Listen to Ntozake Shange Like You’ve Never Heard Her Before

SING A BLACK GIRL’S SONG: The Unpublished Work of Ntozake Shange, by Ntozake Shange. Edited by Imani Perry. Read by a full cast.

A rhapsodic urgency can be felt in “Sing a Black Girl’s Song,” one reflective of Black women’s dreams of freedom and their concomitant demands for those dreams to become a reality.

Throughout her oeuvre, Shange, a Black feminist writer best known for her Broadway choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” amplified the polyphony of Black women’s expression; so it is only fitting that the audiobook version of this compilation of previously unpublished writing brings together a chorus of Black voices — the seasoned narrator Robin Miles, the #MeToo activist Tarana Burke, the actress Alfre Woodard, the playwright Ifa Bayeza and the author’s daughter, the academic Savannah Shange, among others — who breathe exuberant life into Shange’s language.

The collection ranges from early free verse describing urban Black communities and her prosodic frustrations with the machismo of Black political movements of the 1960s and 70s to later meditations on the legend that was her mother. As the book’s editor, Imani Perry, writes in a worthy introduction, Shange’s disparate observations are united by an insistence on “beauty over bullshit.” That beauty is only enhanced by the love and gratitude one can hear in each reader’s recitation. The cadence and lilt of these contributors sweep listeners up in the poetics of Shange’s verse and prose so that even her reflections on the childhood alienation she experienced while attending a gifted program in a white neighborhood feel like a warm embrace.

Upon Shange’s death in 2018, Black people across the globe mourned the loss of a perspective that always felt necessary for the moment. With “Sing a Black Girl’s Song,” Shange’s prescience continues to be heard loud and clear.

‘Sing a Black Girl’s Song’

Listen to a clip from “Sing a Black Girl’s Song”

SING A BLACK GIRL’S SONG: The Unpublished Work of Ntozake Shange | By Ntozake Shange | Edited by Imani Perry | Read by Alfre Woodard, D. Woods, Regina Taylor, Lynn Whitfield, Okwui Okpokwasili, Ifa Bayeza, Imani Perry, Robin Miles, Tarana Burke and Savannah Shange | Legacy Lit | 9 hours, 9 minutes

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