Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Audre Lorde's ZAMI: A New Spelling of My Name

While a young child, Audre Lorde didn't like the way the "y" at the end of her first name fell below the line on the paper, so she changed how she spelled her name.  Unsurprisingly, Lorde grew to be a strong, intelligent woman who fought for what was right and refused to be pigeon-holed or disrespected.

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is an amazing book.  A memoir covering Lorde's early childhood up through her early to mid-20s.  Her facility with language pulls you in, as a reader, to 1930s, 40s, and 50s New York (with a quick aside to Mexico), filling your senses with her words, allowing you to picture the place that birthed her.

Self-described as a "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet," Lorde shares the heartache of growing up black in america through the Depression and WWII and into the nascent Civil Rights Movement, while also revealing what it meant to be a lesbian during this time, as well.  When asked how long she'd been "in the life," Lorde didn't know how to answer, because she only had one life and only knew one way to live:  honestly, but with an invisible wall erected around her, to try and protect her against the prejudices threatening her from all sides.

Lorde's prose is direct, harsh, and also poetic without being too flowery.  She propels you along, even as you wish to remain and linger in certain sections -- the discovery of a new lover, or the enjoyment of a gathering of friends.  I can't remember where I first heard Audre Lorde's name, probably from one of W. Kamau Bell's podcasts, but I'm sure glad I did.  Otherwise, I would not have had the opportunity to experience this powerful biomythography of Lorde's.  And that would have been a shame.

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