Audre Lorde

Zami
  • Zami

  • Audre Lorde

    If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.

    A little black girl opens her eyes in 1930s Harlem. Around her, a heady swirl of passers-by, car horns, kerosene lamps, the stock market falling, fried bananas, tales of her parents' native Grenada. She trudges to public school along snowy sidewalks, and finds she is tongue-tied, legally blind, left behind by her older sisters. On she stumbles through teenage hardships -- suicide, abortion, hunger, a Christmas spent alone -- until she emerges into happiness: an oasis of friendship in Washington Heights, an affair in a dirty factory in Connecticut, and, finally, a journey down to the heat of Mexico, discovering sex, tenderness, and suppers of hot tamales and cold milk. This is Audre Lorde's story. It is a rapturous, life-affirming tale of independence, love, work, strength, sexuality and change, rich with poetry and fierce emotional power.

Audre Lorde was a writer, feminist and civil rights activist - or, as she famously put it, 'Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet'. Born in New York in 1934, she had her first poem published while she was still in high school. After stints as a factory worker, ghost writer, social worker, X-ray technician, medical clerk, and arts and crafts supervisor, she became a librarian in Manhattan and gradually rose to prominence as a poet, essayist and speaker, anthologised by Langston Hughes, lauded by Adrienne Rich, and befriended by James Baldwin. She was made Poet Laureate of New York State in 1991, when she was awarded the Walt Whitman prize; she was also awarded honorary doctorates from Hunter, Oberlin and Haverford colleges. She died of cancer in 1992, aged 58.