Sunday, February 15, 2009

7. "Zami: A New Spelling of My Name" by Audre Lorde

Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Freedom: The Crossing Press, 1982.

Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is described as a “biomythography.” It traces the pain and also the joy that Audre Lorde experienced growing up in New York, working in Connecticut and studying in Mexico. It also traces the joys and sorrows accompanied with coming out and living as an “out” lesbian in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. This book closely resembles work of other queer writers such as Leslie Feinberg. The struggles the women went through are similar and are documented in a similar way. Lorde is an advocate for community building, especially building communities of lesbians and other identified queer women. By structuring her book in the way she has, Lorde has joined the current community of queer literature and writers meeting her goal of community building in a very tangible way. In the course of the novel as well, she pays tribute to the many and varied women who have shaped her life.

“Being women together was not enough. We were different. Being gay-girls together was not enough. We were different. Being Black together was not enough. We were different. Being Black dykes together was not enough. We were different” (Lorde 226). Here Lorde ruminates on the different oppressions she, as a Black lesbian was faced with throughout her life. The book clearly and elegantly articulates the intricacies of this particular kind of oppression during the time of her youth.

Zami is a must for anyone interested in queer or multicultural literature. Lorde mixes her prose with her poetry and even uses meta-commentary at times. She takes a few lines to write about one character’s reaction when they learn that Audre is writing Zami. This creates a profound sense of awareness. Readers understand that Audre Lorde doesn’t mince words; each has its place just as, “The important message seemed to be that you had to have a place. Whether or not it did justice to whatever you felt you were about, there had to be some place to refuel and check your flaps” (Lorde 225). For Lorde, the place to refuel was found in the love she shared with the women in her life.

4.5 darts out of 5

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