The tale of Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo by Ntozake Shange features a day- in-the-life account of three southern sisters as they each approach defining moments in their lives. We begin the novel with the youngest, Indigo, who is very connected to her ancestors and the slaves that “were ourselves.” She believes in the power black people hold and our connection to nature around us. The chapters about Indigo are filled with recipes for dealing with life’s challenges.
” Flowing: When you first realize your blood has come, smile; an honest smile, for you are about to have an intense union with your magic.”
We meet indigo as she has her first menstruation and at the milestone in her life where she has to give up her dolls and enter womanhood. While following Indigo’s story we are reminded of our youth and our transition to womanhood.
Cypress, the middle daughter is a ballet dancer. Her life consisted of “round the clock” dance classes. She first studied dance in New York then moves to San Francisco. When Cypress returns to New York she leaves her former dance troupe, The Kushnites Returned, where she learned African inspired dances and joins the dancers of Azure Bosom, an all-female dance company. While living with the dancers of Azure Bosom, Sassafrass experienced the joy of talking to “women who were about being women, in a woman-being space.” Cypress journey teaches us the importance of sisters and the beauty that is being a woman.
Sassafrass, the oldest daughter is a poet and weaver like her mother. We meet Sassafrass while she is living with her boyfriend who is content living as a starving artist. Sassafrass must make the decision to leave her druggie boyfriend and pursue a life all her own. Reading this novel is like chatting with sisters, Shange puts you in the life of these women and you grow with them. Whether you are on your own journey of self-realization or are helping to guide other women in your life, this is a great summer read.