Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'For Colored Girls' by Ntozake Shange Review

Ntozake Shange wrote For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, the self proclaimed choreopoem, in 1975. It tells the story of several women of color whose stories run the gamut from the trials of date rape to the tribulations of virginity, and everything in between from physical abuse to infidelity.

This choreopoem/play becomes a movie in theatres next month. Tyler Perry directs. Oprah Winfrey produces.

Having now read the play, I can see why Tyler Perry directs the film. It is written in the same vein as Tyler Perry’s own movies and plays. Shange wrote the predecessor to what would become Tyler Perry’s now infamous plays and films. And yet For Colored Girls, the play, manages to transcend thirty five years on the shelf with its use of language to set the place, time and culture as well as its ability to make its audience smile and contemplate.

The language is strong in For Colored Girls, with use of the n word and the antiquated use of ‘colored’. That fact alone can make a person think this choreopoem has no relevance to today’s woman. However, in this instance the language gives tone. It gives shape, color and size to the struggle of a generation to understand and love themselves when not much else in the world told them they should. That same language sets the time, place and culture thirty five years ago.

In addition to its use of language, the choreopoem also possesses moments that put a smile on my face and reflection in my heart. I can not help but smile at the verse “if Jesus cdnt play a horn like shepp/waznt no need for colored folks to bear no cross at all”. The text tells me that this particular character rather enjoyed ‘shepp’ playing the horn because in her mind there was no point in going to Heaven if that music wasn’t there. The play ends on the most beautiful note of contemplation—“this is for colored girls who have considered suicide/but are movin to the ends of their own rainbows”. It ends with a glimmer of hope or as I like to call it the proverbial ‘white picket fence’, even if the fence needs a few coats of paint.

The play sets out with the intent of giving a voice to the story of women of color. Inadvertently, “For Colored Girls" casts a spotlight on today's need for a “For Gay Teens who have considered suicide when the rainbow is Enuf” play, among a number of others.

With all of its pros, the play’s title can be off-putting but it deserves a read because it tells the story of not only women of color but women in general. The stories cut across racial, ethnic and color lines. “For Colored Girls” deserves 4 & 3/4 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

5 Reasons to Write & Actually Finish Your Novel

Writers get a lot of rejection. From rejection letters to writing partner critiques, a writer's life is plagued with it. Understandably, a writer can find themselves believing that their writing is no good, no one will read the novel when it’s done, or a billion other untruths. Those outer, and sometimes inner, thoughts can drive a writer to stop midstream, not complete the book and give up on writing altogether. The writer's life is so plagued with rejection, in fact, that I have decided to counteract some of it. My solution? Five reasons that, despite the hills you may climb or insecurities you may feel, you should write your novel anyway.

1. Your family and friends will love your novel unconditionally. That’s why they get the prestigious title of family and friends.

2. If you love your novel, it can never be a waste of time; even if it never sells. If you love your characters and story it is well worth the journey of writing the book. If you enjoy writing the novel for one, two or three years of your life then the entertainment you provide yourself alone makes the time well spent.

3. It’s more productive than watching television. The average American spends approximately 153 hours watching television a month—writing a novel is a much better use of your time and brain. *winks* I say that as a reality television addict.

4. Twilight. Every time someone criticizes Stephenie Meyer’s writing, an angel gets its wings----and she sells another copy of her trilogy. You don’t have to be Stephenie Meyer but her story goes to show that if it seems like someone isn’t getting your story then maybe 10 million other people will. Above all, don't quit writing or believe that you can't write.

5. You are entitled to a shitty first draft. So write it already. Good, bad or ugly.

As a writer, it can seem like the competition is too stiff or your writing is not as good as someone else’s, but I just found five reasons that you should push those thoughts into some deep crevice in the back of your mind and finish your novel anyway. There’s no time like Nanowrimo!

P.S. If anyone cares, this is where I found the information on how much television Americans watch.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: "Personal Demons" by Lisa Desrochers

Personal Demons is the debut Young Adult novel written by Lisa Desrochers. It follows Frannie Cavanaugh who’s blessed with a gift—maybe curse--that both Heaven and Hell can use. She chooses between Heaven and Hell in the form of Luc and Gabe all while navigating high school. Along the way, she learns about herself--her past, present and future come to light. Personal Demons captures and holds the attention of its audience because of the characters, supreme writing and unexpected ending.

Frannie Cavanaugh, the main character, is not perfect and we fall in love with her for it. If she were, her decision would be an easy one. There’s an old adage--Men want a whore in the bedroom and an angel in public. Well it applies to women too. And Luc and Gabe epitomize this adage. Luc is hot and dangerous and not having him in your bed would seem like a sentence in Hell, but you want to raise children with Gabe.

These awesome characters unite with their plot through the writing. The symbolism is rampant and used to give the sense of time, place and character. It goes beyond the fact that Luc represents Hell and Gabe Heaven. Ginger represents lust. And if you’ve ever heard the saying that you can smell fear, after reading Personal Demons you’ll know it smells like grapefruit.

Throw in the fantastically unexpected ending and Personal Demons becomes a book that you can’t put down. I found myself hoping half way through this novel that a ‘white picket fence’ lay somewhere in the future. Even though Personal Demons' 'white picket fence' hardly comes in the traditional form, it did not disappoint.

I truly enjoyed reading Personal Demons for its characters, unexpected ending and fantastic writing of a new and unique world where souls have a taste and a demon can make you run towards Hell instead of away. Personal Demons gets 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Summer Reading: Had me a Blast

2 Young Adult
The Duff by Kody Keplinger
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

1 Horror
The Passage by Justin Cronin

3 Crime Fiction
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl who played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

I consider myself a fan of women’s fiction, although by looking at the list I made above you’d never believe it. This is a list of the books I purchased this summer—some read, some not---and there isn’t a women’s fiction or chicklit novel on it. The list is shockingly short to begin with---I enjoyed a lot of surf and sun this summer—but the loyalty to my genre is shocking to me.

I received one women’s fiction book this summer, Good-bye to All That by Margo Candela. But I won it in a contest and not for fabulous writing either. I merely entered my name and address into a contest and the book came in the mail. Ummmm.

So I ask you do you have a favorite genre? If so, do you stick to it or will you read anything with a good story?

Better yet, what books did you buy this summer? Did they cross genres or did you stick steadfastly with YOUR genre?

P.S. I read more books than what is listed above, like Plain Jane by Cristyn West, but those books were given to me free of charge specifically for the purpose of reviewing them. These are the books in which dollars and cents were exchanged.