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Zami, a New Spelling of My Name

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  7,665 ratings  ·  294 reviews
Lorde's self-named "biomythography"
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by Persephone Press
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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mark monday
in college, in the late 80s and early 90s, i discovered that i had two aunts. this is one (and this is another). aunt Audre intimidated me at first. she was a stern, moody, melancholy woman who had lived a life of so many ups and downs. but as i got to know her, her innate gentleness became clear. this was a woman with so much empathy and understanding for the people around her. this was a lady who had felt pain in her life and would be able to understand my pain as well. she told me stories of ...more
Mar 23, 2007 Aaron rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Audre Lorde's beatiful autobiography of her child- and early-adulthood. She's been prized for her "sensuality" in writing but this is no chicklit - her account of the lesbian bar scene in 1950's America will fascinate anyone interested in these forgotten pockets of culture. After reading it, what most amazed me about her was her unpretensiousness and her willingness to expose herself completely. Few writers have been so insightful when talking about themselves.
Vincent Scarpa
I clearly stand alone in thinking this, and that's fine, but parts of this book were torture for me to get through. Especially in the latter half of the book, wherein Lorde invents 1000 different ways to say she loves a cavalcade of women who, by the end, I truly couldn't tell apart. I can appreciate the craft at work here, and that Lorde has a talent for language and is probably a great poet, but I just couldn't find a way to care about her life. I don't think her perspective is as unique as sh ...more
Shanna Hullaby
My new favorite book. Lorde tells all the secrets I was too afraid to tell in language more eloquent than my dreams.
Sep 16, 2007 Mik rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
Shelves: memoirs
Audre Lorde recounts the first half of her life in an amazing blend of her own poetry, popular songs, journal entries, and memories that are startling in their exactness and fairness. Her ability to recount her extreme loneliness and desire for companionship at being Black in gay scenes, gay in Black crowds and female and working class in the U.S. Her amazing sympathy for the women and men whom she loved and hurt/was hurt by is a testament to her desire to create great networks and bridges betwe ...more
Very easy five star rating. This is phenomenal. The language is beautiful and the exploration of her identity as black, female and lesbian is fascinating. Seriously, go and read it. It will make your heart sing.
Alissa Nelson
I've always felt a real affinity for the poetry of Lorde's writing, and somehow this was the only book of hers I could find at the library. Whoa. Absolutely beautiful, gripping language. The lyricism that transforms sex into love. The beauty of learning about yourself from the joy and pain of relationships. I would read this over and over again, bathe in these words and the honesty and the reality of this.

This is also just a phenomenal cultural document, a portrait of queer life in the middle o
Sometimes I found the descriptions of everything around her beautiful, sometimes tedious. Sometimes i appreciated her honesty and frank descriptions of her feelings for other women, sometimes I found them voyeuristic and out of the scope of my understanding.

But ultimately it made me cry a little and when she talks about how much she's looked down upon for being black even past being lesbian it's heartbreaking, even if sometimes it gets obscured by a litany of names I can't connect and descriptio
Stephanie Spines
If I could wrap myself in a book and hideout forever, I'd do so with this book. Mother Audre has the most gorgeous writing style.
Lisa M.
Title: Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
Author: Audre Lorde
Structure: 31 chapters
Pages: 256
Plot: This “biomythography” details the first twenty-five years or so of Audre Lorde’s life. Lorde’s parents are immigrants from Grenada. Her mother is extremely strict, and her father is distant. Lorde grows up with very bad eye sight and a love of reading. As she grows up, she begins to realize she is an outsider due to her race and sexual attraction for women. As an adult Lorde goes to various classes, j
There are certain books you read where the mere mention of the name evokes a strong positive reaction from you. It sort of takes you to another place. This book does it for me. Just an incredible piece of writing and storytelling with some of her excellent poetry added in as well. Just a brilliant woman, extremely creative and this biomythography that she has created is just crazy-good. Well done, Audre -- well done!
Ben Kim
Mystical, poetic, surreal. Lorde encapsulates in this modern magical realist narrative a hauntingly beautiful image of black lesbian life in the late 20th century. It is a classical work of queer literature post-stonewall, and I recommend it to anyone interested in the history or sociology of queer people of color.
Luanne Castle
I didn’t think of this book as a memoir when I read it in grad school. I was immersing myself in the work of Lorde for a possible chapter in my dissertation. Unfortunately, Lorde passed away of cancer while I was in grad school. She was 58 years old. This chapter never got finished, although my dissertation did.

Lorde wanted readers to think of this book–as a biomythography. In it she writes about her origins, as a Caribbean child growing up lesbian in Harlem, and she writes about some of the wom
Audre Lorde is a poet, and this shows in her prose. The writing is effortlessly beautiful and compelling as she moves between accounts of her family and relationships, the sometimes mundane details of life in New York, and meditations on how to live life being gay, and a woman, and black, and a gay black woman. Nobody can tell me what it means (meant in the 1950s) to be a gay black woman in New York, except someone who lived that experience, and I am grateful that this talented woman recorded it ...more
I found this to be an embarrassingly honest and graphic account of Audre Lorde’s life and loves and as such it's hard to write any criticism - and feels kind of wrong to, really; because her choices are hers to make – whether or not I agree with or understand them –some parts I liked – such as the acute insight into what it was like to be growing up as a black lesbian in 1950s America, much of which seems to be sadly still relevant – but mostly Zami made me feel quite uneasy and confused. This b ...more
cras culture
audre lorde is a helluva lady. this is a passionate fiercely real and intelligent memoire, of yes, a black lesbian coming of age in the 40s and 50s. in this memoir, or biomythography, as lorde refers to it, you get only the first 21 years of her life, but geez, what a 21 years it is.

would be an interesting counterpoint to the beat version of 50s new york bohemia, especially since they so glorify the white male perspective.

my only miff with this book is when she describes her girlfriend with schi
Audre Lorde's "Zami" is a mixed bag of a book, so to speak. A friend warned me that it was amazing until she leaves college in the book, and after that, it's a bit yawn-tastic and circular. I tend to agree with him, though I wouldn't call the second half of the book boring--just less colorful, so to speak, which is funny because it's in the second half that all the love affairs and gay bars and shitty jobs arise. But Lorde's prose is fluid and enjoyable to read, she paints portraits of presumabl ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Vicky rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ardith, Patricia, but of course anyone
I think it was Justin who told me that reading this book made him want to scream, and at the time, I was only familiar with two books of Audre Lorde's poetry, so I didn't know that her prose could punch like this. Not that I was not expecting it, but maybe I was limiting in my image of her as a poet. It's not so much that this "biomythography" punches, but it builds the heat up in your body as you read, which gives you the kind of energy necessary to do something because you could die your death ...more
Had to read this for a class. The first ten chapters are boring as all hell. The next third of the book got very interesting but then it started to drag on again toward the end. This is a story about a young black woman growing up in the fifties. It's about her struggles with finding herself and her sexuality when certain lines had already been drawn in society. It's an okay read but I still probably wouldn't recommend this to anyone to read.
"Biomythography" is a perfect word for this amazing story. Audre Lorde takes you on a beautiful, painful journey of love, lust, identity, and self-discovery.

She forces us to question ideals of beauty and sexuality. More importantly, she frames the book around the many women that framed her life - each one splendidly complex and real.

After reading this book, I began to reflect on my own relationships and evaluate the people who have shaped me, wrongly, rightly, and everything in the grey. A boo
Audre Lorde speaks of things that aren't spoken of enough. Untold sides of American and New York City history. How the most overt and the most subtle experiences of racism appear to a young child. How white male standards dominate women's expressions of sexuality. Radiation exposure of Black factory workers. Homemade abortions.

I'd say, read this book before it becomes a mainstream classic. Then, go out and do something to help make the world the kind of place where a book like this could imagin
Glen Engel-Cox
A strong voice in both African-American women's literature and lesbian literature, Audre Lorde is likely someone as alien to my experience as anyone could possibly be. Well, at least someone who was born and raised in the U.S. At first, I found this biography fascinating, but it began to tire me about halfway through. I don't know what I was expecting, but I felt like everything was commonplace, rather than distinct and unique.

But then, maybe that's her point. That lesbians, blacks, women, or wh
Jenny Wood
“Woman forever. My body, a living representation of other life older longer wiser. The mountains and valleys, trees, rocks. Sand and flowers and water and stone. Made in earth.”

I found this passage particularly beautiful. Being a mother, and studying to be a midwife has left me with a profound appreciation of women. I feel that despite its briefness, this quote really tells the story of women. Women are the creative forces of the earth made manifest. Watching a laboring woman bring new life into
Kathleen Hagen
Zami: a new Spelling of my Name, by audre Lorde, Narrated by Robin Miles, Produced by Audible Inc., downloaded from

Audre Lorde was one of the best loved feminist author and poets in the 1970’s and 1980’s. She is sorely missed even today. I’m including the publisher’s note here because it lists so many quotes from feminist magazine reviews.
"Zami", a carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers...."Among the elements that make the book so good are it's personal hon
A life in loves (the early part of a life, anyway): it's the author's process of self-discovery but structured by the succession of women she loved and lost, each of whom is a vivid character in her own right. Though Audre Lorde learned something from these women, they are autonomous, and that's what I liked the best about this book. That, and its sensuous erotic character (erotic even in the parts that are not about lovemaking). What a way to live. Never less than fully involving.
This is a self-described 'biomythography' of poet Audre Lorde's youth. The book starts out slow and is, at times a bit disturbing, but it gains momentum after the first few chapters. Highlights include beautifully written, colourful descriptions of the New York lesbian scene in the 1950s and poetic, moving accounts of Lorde's many loves. Her 1954 interlude in Mexico was so vibrant and colourful that I wanted to travel there in a time machine.
Aug 14, 2007 Julia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all black lesbians and their allies
this is my favorite audre lorde book. it was so interesting to read about her life growing up in harlem and her coming out process in the 1950s... it explores racism within the gay community, heterosexism and homophobia in society as a whole... and is just an overall great story of a woman's journey of self-discovery. anyone - straight/gay/queer/whatevah - has something to relate to in this book.

AUDRE LORDE is the shiznit!
I guess I expected to see her talk more about the change going on around her in terms of politics and social justice. It was more about just herself alone than anything. It was an ok read, fast paced, but too detailed about her life only. While it is nice reading about her experiences in terms of relationships, I would care much more about her experiences with social justice, especially given the time.
Heyrebekah Alm
I first read this book for college class about the art of autobiography. I picked it up again the other day and was blown away (again) by how unflinchingly honest Lorde is as she recounts her childhood in Harlem and then her struggles fitting in as a black lesbian, trying to bring her different identities together. Her words drip off the page like poetry, rich and sensual and full of wisdom.
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Lorde's poetry was published very regularly during the 1960s — in Langston Hughes' 1962 New Negro Poets, USA; in several foreign anthologies; and in black literary magazines. During this time, she was politically active in civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements. Her first volume of poetry, The First Cities (1968), was published by the Poet's Press and edited by Diane di Prima, a former cla ...more
More about Audre Lorde...
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches The Collected Poems The Cancer Journals The Black Unicorn: Poems Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power

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“I cried to think of how lucky we both were to have found each other, since it was clear that we were the only ones in the world who could understand what we understood in the instantaneous manner in which we understood it.” 9 likes
“You loved people and you came to depend on their being there. but people died or changed or went away and it hurt too much. The only way to avoid that poin was not to love anyone, and not to let anyone get too close or too important. The secret of not being hurt like this again, I decided, was never depending on anyone, never needing, never loving.
It is the last dream of children, to be forever untouched.”
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