( 1948- )
Born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey, Ntozake Shange moved with her family to St. Louis, Missouri, at the age of eight. When she was thirteen, she returned with her family to complete high school in New Jersey, where her surgeon father and educator mother entertained black musicians, writers, and political leaders in their home. In 1970 she graduated with a BA in American studies from Barnard College, and she completed an MA in American studies at the University of Southern California in 1973. Following a difficult separation from her first husband and frustrated at the limited career options for women, Williams chose to take the African name of Ntozake Shange (meaning "she who comes with her own things" and one "who walks like a lion") in 1971.
During Shange's multifaceted career, she has been a poet, author, dancer, actress, director, educator, installation artist, and musician. (Her band was Zaki and the Palm Wine Drunkards.) She has held several academic posts at California State College, City College of New York, and Rutgers University, and she was the Mellon Distinguished Professor of Literature at Rice University and a professor of drama at the University of Houston, among others. She has directed plays for the New York Shakespeare Festival and other theatres and has performed in several jazz/dance/poetry ensembles on both coasts. In addition to her theatre pieces, she has written several volumes of poetry and fiction. Her poetry includes Nappy Edges ( 1978), A Daughter's Geography: Poetry ( 1983), and Matrilineal Poems ( 1983); her fiction includes Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo: A Novel ( 1982), Betsy Brown ( 1985), The Love Space Demands, and her recent book Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter ( 1995).
Shange resides in Philadelphia with her daughter where she writes and