The story meanders through school, work, love and other eye-opening life experiences. Although the overarching structure of the book lacks definitiveness, Audre Lorde takes care to examine the layers of female connection as she remembers her mother, sisters, friends, co-workers and lovers—women who helped shape her. The question, then, is how accurately she describes events. Her stories of her youth include the beginning of World War II and a fair amount of political awakening.
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The story meanders through school, work, love and other eye-opening life experiences. Although the overarching structure of the book lacks definitiveness, Audre Lorde takes care to examine the layers of female connection as she remembers her mother, sisters, friends, co-workers and lovers—women who helped shape her.
The question, then, is how accurately she describes events. Her stories of her youth include the beginning of World War II and a fair amount of political awakening. She writes of vivid impressions remembered from childhood, from first-grade teachers to neighborhood characters.
She sprinkles snippets of journal entries and fragments of poetry in between some of the stories. Another portion explores factory working conditions in nearby Connecticut and the limited job options for a young black woman who had not yet gone to college or learned to type. The prose is mesmerizing at certain points, and always promising as it dips in and out of the rhythms of New York that helped shape Audre Lorde into the prominent feminist poet she became.
Audre Lorde and others of her age were laying the groundwork for a renewed feminist struggle throughout their lives. The image of the poet as black lesbian encompasses continuity with a familial and herstorical past, community, strength, woman-bonding, rootedness in the world, and an ethic of care and responsibility. The image of a connected artist-self who is able to identify and draw on the strengths of women around her and before her is an important image for all of us to consider.
What we learn may be as significant for our individual and collective survival as it has been for Audre Lorde. The artist as black lesbian challenges both pre-feminist and feminist ideas.
Labels can be limiting. Is Audre Lorde a poet? A feminist? How does she construct her identity as a black lesbian feminist poet native to New York whose parents come from the West Indies? Zami: A New Spelling of My Name offers insight into the thoughts behind overlapping identities and the overlapping truths that go along with them.
Selected Quotes from Zami Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from me—so different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognize her. And in that growing, we came to separation, that place where work begins. A choice of pains. Non-conventional people can be dangerous, even in the gay community. I remember how being young and Black and gay and lonely felt. A lot of it was fine, feeling I had the truth and the light and the key, but a lot of it was purely hell.
Edited and new content added by Jone Johnson Lewis.
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
Lorde is legally blind from a very young age, isolating her even further from her surroundings and a family from which she does not receive much warmth or affection. Her two older sisters, Phyllis and Helen, are very close, but are rarely mentioned in Zami and Lorde spends little time with them. Her parents and other adults, especially her mother, discipline her harshly for insolence. Lorde does not speak until age 4, when she declares that she wants to read, and promptly follows through on this desire.
Review of Zami: a New Spelling of My Name
Audre LORDE Zami A New Spelling Of My Name... Sister Outsider... Undersong Chosen Poems Old And New