"Remembering Ntozake Shange"

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
The Langston Hughes Review
contact email: 

The Langston Hughes Review Special Issue CFP: "Remembering Ntozake Shange" 

In light of Ntozake Shange’s recent death, The Langston Hughes Review will publish a commemorative special issue on her life and writings. Newspaper articles and social media posts notwithstanding, the scholarship on Shange is hardly commensurate with her writings. This special issue addresses this lacuna. Shange once described herself as “a daughter of the black arts movement, even though they didn’t know they were gonna have a girl,” but how could she claim such a lineage and identify as a feminist? According to Farah Jasmine Griffin, Shange shared much in common with older black women writers who were more formally related to Black Arts. Griffin writes: “Along with Jayne Cortez, Toni Cade Bambara, and others, Shange introduced black women into literature who were creative, multilingual, bohemian, literate, hip to avant-garde jazz and Latin music, and political. These were women whose work emerged from the encounter of the Black Arts Movement with feminism.” Shange forged a complex feminism that embraced the contradictions of black life and de/constructed trauma, while using all of this to promote activism and happiness in her stories. We seek articles on any aspect of Shange’s writings, life, and/or legacy. As a poet, playwright, novelist, actor, and dancer, she was one of the most influential black feminists of her generation. For instance, in her book When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, the hip hop feminist Joan Morgan writes, “For my mother and black women like her, Shange’s play gave their experiences a legitimacy and a voice it would take me years to comprehend.”

Morgan’s invocation of Shange also begs the question: What is Shange’s legacy for contemporary black women artists and scholars? In what ways do Shange’s writings prefigure, contextualize, and/or analogize contemporary black women’s scholarship, film, theater, or creative writing?  This critical volume will explore how Shange not only changed her generation’s expressive cultural arsenal; she also mapped the trajectories of contemporary black feminist cultural producers that mine the liminal space of Black Arts activism, despite its exclusionary politics, and black feminist writing that coextensively expresses queered black feminist thought. We seek contributions that broadly explore the following entré points of engagement of Shange’s archive and repertoire:

  • How does dancing express black women’s agency in her writings? What is the significance of dance in Shange’s writings?
  • How have stage and/or film adaptations of Shange’s work reimagined or expanded our understanding of Shange as poet and/playwright?
  • How does Beyoncé’s dancing, visual albums, videos, and/or film Lemonade elaborate on Shange’s premise in for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf?
  • How does queer theory illuminate the sexual politics in Shange’s writings and/or kinesthesia?
  • In what ways does Shange’s writing provide a critico-historical context for examining Afro-Latina artists such as Celia Cruz and Cardi B?
  • How do the works of critically acclaimed playwrights such as Suzan-Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage, and Dominique Morisseau build upon and/or contrast with Shange’s aesthetic and cultural politics?
  • As a founding poet of the Nuyorican Poets Café, Shange was a forerunner of spoken word and an admirer of Bessie Smith’s blues as well as jazz, funk, and other musical forms. How would a critical conversation between these artists and/or related topics be configured?
  • How are Shange’s poetry, plays, novels and/or essays interconnected with the legacy of Langston Hughes?
  • In what ways are Shange’s writings shaped by her experiences in St. Louis during Jim Crow?
  • In her later years, Shange suffered strokes and other physical ailments that prevented her from writing for several years. How would methodologies in disabilities studies facilitate our understanding of how her mobility shifts in the twilight of her life impacted her writing and performance that reveal systemic ableism?

Essays should be between 4500 and 6000 words, excluding endnotes and references. Please address questions to Tony Bolden, Editor, The Langston Hughes Review, lhr@ku.edu. Deadline: January 15, 2020.