Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Rate this book
A collection of fifteen essays written between 1976 and 1984 gives clear voice to Audre Lorde's literary and philosophical personae. These essays explore and illuminate the roots of Lorde's intellectual development and her deep-seated and longstanding concerns about ways of increasing empowerment among minority women writers and the absolute necessity to explicate the concept of difference—difference according to sex, race, and economic status. The title Sister Outsider finds its source in her poetry collection The Black Unicorn (1978). These poems and the essays in Sister Outsider stress Lorde's oft-stated theme of continuity, particularly of the geographical and intellectual link between Dahomey, Africa, and her emerging self.

190 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1984

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Audre Lorde

109 books4,064 followers
Audre Lorde was a revolutionary Black feminist. 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 classmate and friend from Hunter College High School. Dudley Randall, a poet and critic, asserted in his review of the book that Lorde "does not wave a black flag, but her blackness is there, implicit, in the bone."

Her second volume, Cables to Rage (1970), which was mainly written during her tenure at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, addressed themes of love, betrayal, childbirth and the complexities of raising children. It is particularly noteworthy for the poem "Martha", in which Lorde poetically confirms her homosexuality: "[W]e shall love each other here if ever at all." Later books continued her political aims in lesbian and gay rights, and feminism. In 1980, together with Barbara Smith and Cherríe Moraga, she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of colour. Lorde was State Poet of New York from 1991 to 1992.

Read More

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
21,130 (64%)
4 stars
8,416 (25%)
3 stars
2,241 (6%)
2 stars
505 (1%)
1 star
227 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,615 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,457 reviews8,559 followers
March 14, 2018
If you care about feminism, social justice, or making the world a better place in any way at all, you must read this book. Sister Outsider shook me to my core. Audre Lorde's brilliant, powerful, love-filled writing literally brought me to tears in a local Panera Bread. In this stunning collection of essays and speeches, she addresses the sheer necessity of intersectional feminism and supporting women of color, the importance of using our voices to speak up against injustice, the horrors inflicted by US imperialism and capitalism, and more. I knew about halfway through reading this book that it would serve as one of my absolute favorite reads and feminist works of all time. I marked several passages from each essay, so I wish I could share so many of them in this review, but for the sake of brevity, first, an iconic passage about how we must stand in solidarity with everyone who faces oppression, not just those who look like us:

"I am a lesbian woman of Color whose children eat regularly because I work in a university. If their full bellies make me fail to recognize my commonality with a woman of Color whose children do not eat because she cannot find work, or who has no children because her insides are rotted from home abortions and sterilization; if I fail to recognize the lesbian who chooses not to have children, the woman who remains closeted because her homophobic community is her only life support, the woman who chooses silence instead of another death, the woman who is terrified lest my anger trigger the explosion of hers; if I fail to recognize them as other faces of myself, then I am contributing not only to each of their oppressions but also to my own, and the anger which stands between us then must be used for clarity and mutual empowerment, not for evasion by guilt or for further separation. I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is any one of you."

Let me just tell you some of the glorious feats Lorde accomplishes in this collection. She rightfully calls out white women for their racism and upholding of patriarchy, black men for their misogyny and homophobia, and all of us for the oppression we internalize and project onto others. She reclaims female sexuality as a weapon against patriarchy and for self-love. She centers the experiences of black women, including lesbian black women, with no apologies. Lorde does all of this and more with a voice that is wise, soulful, commanding, and kind, somehow all at once. Her writing acts as both a sword and a salve, tearing through layers and layers of racism, sexism, and discrimination while offering a healing path for us to follow. Another passage I love, this one about the importance of feeling, a trait that is undervalued in a male-dominated society:

"For within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, feelings were expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men. But women have survived. As poets. And there are no new pains. We have felt them all already. We have hidden that fact in the same place where we have hidden our power. They surface in our dreams, and it is our dreams that point the way to freedom. Those dreams are made realizable through our poems that give us the strength and courage to see, to speak and to dare... For there are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt - of examining what those ideas feel like being lived on Sunday morning at 7 A.M., after brunch, during wild love, making war, giving birth, mourning our dead - while we suffer the old longings, battle the old warnings and fears of being silent and impotent and alone, while we taste new possibilities and strengths."

It is a true tragedy that Lorde is not required reading for everyone, everywhere. At the same time, I feel so grateful for Lorde's revelatory ideas and her beautiful delivery. As a beginning therapist, I believe it is of utmost importance to both honor our emotions and change our actions to better our mental health, all while working toward social justice. Lorde accomplishes all of these things. She sits with the dark, destructive emotions brought on by experiencing racism and prejudice, while celebrating the joyful feelings of black lesbian womanhood and of liberation overall. In addition, she provides tangible strategies to fight for a better, more just and loving world. I cannot praise this collection enough. I will just say that it is one of my favorite books ever and please please read it. I will end this review with one more quote that exemplifies her penchant for calling us to action:

"How are you practicing what you preach - whatever you preach, and who exactly is listening? As Malcolm stressed, we are not responsible for our oppression, but we must be responsible for our own liberation. It is not going to be easy but we have what we learned and what we have been given that is useful. We have the power those who came before us have given us, to move beyond the place they were standing. We have the trees, and water, and sun, and our children. Malcolm X does not live in the dry texts of his words as we read them; he lives in the energy we generate and use to move along the visions we share with him. We are making the future as well as bonding to survive the enormous pressures of the present, and that is what it means to be a part of history."
Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews945 followers
October 21, 2016
There is something spellbinding about reading this book, as though one had stepped into a room where someone was speaking, quietly and clearly, and a crowd of people were listening intently, feeling together in mutual awareness and sympathy. It must be because I know so many women have read this book and felt their hearts answer Lorde. It must be because she is a poet and creates with words that space within us, that bridge where separate senses of being can cross and touch.

Perhaps the spell of a poet speaking about feminist praxis is in healing a breech, in reorienting us away from the false and foolish dichotomy between emotion and thought, which in her essays Poetry is not a Luxury and Uses of the Erotic Lorde shows us how to unlearn. Feminist work questions such patriarchal assumptions that make us easier to control by splitting one part of us off and denigrating it, calling us hysterical and unbalanced.

Audre Lorde: Black Lesbian feminist mother, lover, cancer survivor, daughter of Grendian immigrants to the USA, socialist, shows how one struggle is bound up with another: I am not free while others are in chains. She draws us towards wholeness, with ourselves and with each other: not in the denial of difference but in the recognition that difference is strength.

Notes from a Trip to Russia Lorde's notes from a visit she made in 1976 as an observer of the African-Asian Writer's Conference. She talks about dreaming Russia before she talks about being there: she notes that the socialism she dreams of does not really exist anywhere, and she is not uncritical, but her account is largely positive. She does not experience any individual racial prejudice (though people look interestedly) and this makes her aware of racism in the USA as the texture of everyday life. Her observation is fine-grained, a vital snapshot, highly personal, aesthetic, emotionally rich, acutely political. She compares Soviet cities to cities in West Africa. She is critical of the conference and the lack of attention to black people in the USA, with whom there is no meaningful solidarity expressed. Above all she is impressed by the fact that basic needs are met: healthcare is free, and everyone has enough to eat. This compared very favourably to black populations in the US.

Poetry is not a Luxury "I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word to mean in order to cover a desperate wish for imagination without insight.""The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The Black mother within each of us - the poet - whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free" I got so much from reading this essay, slowly, word by word. Lorde asserts boldly that there are "no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt". We feel our ways towards what we want to build, towards change and freedom. To me hers is a beautiful and profound expression of the barrenness of rationality without feeling self-interrogation and empathy. Much is true that we lack words to express, bound as we are by a culture and language of white supremacist patriarchy. "For women, then, poetry... is a vital necessity of our existence" because it is the means by which we name the nameless and speak the unheard.

The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action Lorde makes a passionate case for not being silent, because when we speak we can come together and overcome fears, and create change. I felt this paragraph especially, considering the marginalisation of many women within feminist movement: "And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives. That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own. For instance, 'I can't possibly teach Black women's writing - their experience is so different from mine.' Yet how many years have you spent teaching Plato and Shakespeare and Proust?... Or 'she's a lesbian and what would my husband say, or my chairman'... And all the other endless ways in which we rob ourselves of each other."

Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving Lorde begins by asserting that racism, sexism, heterosexism and homophobia are "forms of human blindness [that] stem from… an inability to recognise the notion of difference as a dynamic human force, one that is enriching rather than threatening to the defined self, when there are shared goals". This idea alone deserves deep thought and endless repetition. The essay is about lesbophobia particularly in the Black US community. She explains how white supremacist patriarchy functions to manufacture it, and why Black woman-identified women are not a threat to Black men or to the community in general. She talks about accepted practices of love and forms of marriage between women in West African communities, which is fascinating. The essay may be less urgently needed today, but the arguments are fresh and clear, and returning to them is fruitful.

Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power This is possibly my favourite feminist essay. It's a further development of 'Poetry is Not a Luxury', on the power of feeling:
As women we have come to distrust that power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge. We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth of feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men, but which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibilities of it within themselves. So women are maintained at a distant/inferior position to psychically milked.
Lorde rehabilitates eros, the life force as a vivifying principle for our actions:
The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire[...] Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives.

It requires the matchless eloquence and sensitivity of a poet to articulate this radically expanded and renewed idea of the erotic. I will read this many times and each time draw a new lesson from it.

Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface In this response to an article by Robert Staples in The Black Scholar, Lorde addresses anti-feminism and sexism in the Black community, and the re-weaponisation of racism against Black women by Black men (with the ongoing complicity of White feminists).
In this country, Black women traditionally have had compassion for everybody except ourselves. We have cared for whites because we had to for pay or survival; we have cared for our children and our fathers and our brothers and our lovers. History and popular culture, as well as our personal lives, are full of tales of Black women who had 'compassion for misguided black men.' Our scarred, broken, battered and dead daughters and sisters are a mute testament to that reality. We need to learn to have compassion for ourselves, also.

An Open Letter to Mary Daly Another classic and much-shared (but evidently still not enough read) essay on the failure of white feminists to examine their own racism, to divest from white supremacist patriarchal constructions of Black and non-European women, to actually read the work of women of colour and hear it, feel it and respond to it rather than appropriate and plagiarise it. At the end she says "I felt it was wasted energy [to speak to white women about racism] because of destructive guilt and defensiveness, and because whatever I had to say might better be said by white women to one another at far less emotional cost to the speaker, and probably with a better hearing." This is not her first or last expression of the wish for white people to teach each other about racism. Lorde's words are still needed, and once met, turned to again and again, because the problem will not go away while our education remains silent on structural racism and our culture refuses to mark whiteness.

Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response This is a very touching essay about raising boys, specifically as a Black woman raising a Black boy, and as a Lesbian. There are many insights, one being that she has to teach her son that women do not exist to do men's emotional labour. She sheds light on how parents inadvertantly inculcate in their children the lesson so culturally ingrained that might makes right: how family life can be complicit and contributary to a culture of domination and assymetrical power relationships.

An Interview: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich I have read works that quoted Rich's feminist work and I have one of her poetry books on my TBR, but I did not know she had interviewed Lorde. She seems to do a good job of drawing her out, making space for her to talk about her ways of thinking and working and sources of inspiration. Every time Audre speaks the music of her style swells gorgeously across the page. Her stories, whether of aesthetic experiences, teaching or writing, are dense with insights. The two come into conflict when Audre upbraids Adrienne for asking for 'documentation', for more than intuition, and Adrienne insists on her position: "Help me to perceive what you perceive" as white women so often plead. Audre is patient, she explains that 'the one thing I've had to fight with my whole life [is] preserving my perceptions of how things are... doing this in the face of tremendous opposition and cruel judgement. Adrienne says that she asks herself what she can do with Lorde's ideas, how she can use them, which Lorde says is the oft-missed 'essential step'

The Master's Tools will never Dismantle the Master's House Lorde has done her work to equip us, or rather to show us how to equip ourselves, with our own tools, forged in the recognition of difference and the use and celebration of its fruitful, creative potential, and in the need and desire to nurture each other. Yet academic white American feminists, she argues, do not reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. "In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower" "Now we hear that it is the task of women of Colour to educate white women - in the face of tremendous resistance - as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought"

Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference Lorde here expands her lament about the oppressed being expected to educate the oppressor, explaining how all of these binaries and hierarchies serve a racist patriarchal capitalism: "institutionalised rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people" She describes the american 'mythical norm' of the thin, white, male, young, heterosexual, financially secure "those of us who stand outside this power often identify one way in which we are different, and we assume that to be the primary cause of all oppression, forgetting other distortions around difference, some of which we ourselves may be practicing. By and large within the women's movement today, white women focus on their oppression as women and ignore differences of race, sexual preference, class, and age. There is a pretence to the homogeneity of experience covered by the word sisterhood that does not in fact exist."

Lorde's argument that difference is fruitful and powerful grows out, I feel, from her arguments in The Uses of the Erotic, because 'the erotic cannot be felt secondhand' but it can be shared, taught and understood across difference, and its affirmative power affirms others rather than struggling for a position from which to dominate them. In recognition of each other we can direct the power we each derive from the erotic towards common political goals (QUICK NB - Lorde is not talking about that 'erotic capital' thing! This has nothing to do with reinscribing and co-opting patriarchal sexual norms)

The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism "Women responding to racism means women responding to anger; the anger of exclusion, of unquestioned privilege, of racial distortions, of silence, ill-use, stereotyping, defensiveness, misnaming, betrayal and cooptation" "anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strenthening act of clarification" "Mainstream communication does not want women, particularly white women, responding to racism. It wants racism to be accepted as an immutable given in the fabric of your existence". Lorde critiques Consciousness Raising groups which helped white women to articulate their anger against men, but not against other women across barriers of difference "No tools were developed to deal with other women's anger except to avoid it, deflect it, or flee from it under a blanket of guilt". There can be no collective action when white women evade instead of "meet[ing] us, face to face, beyond objectification and beyond guilt"

Learning from the 60s Some thoughts on Malcolm X, heterosexism and homophobia in the Black community, and US foreign policy (interventionist, imperialistic) and social policy (anti-welfare, atomising) in the 80s

Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger Here Lorde discusses anger and animosity between Black women at great length. I never realised how the treatment of Black women by daily and structural manifestations of white supremacist patriarchy came to engender distrust and hate between Black women themselves. As she often does, Audre draws on histories of African women collaborating with and sharing power with each other, supporting and loving each other, offering these resources for Black American women. She also offers wisdom from the I Ching and from fellow Black women poets. She explains how the destruction of self esteem makes Black women devalue each other as well as themselves. She decries the dehumanising idea that 'white folks feel, Black folks DO'.

Grenada Revisited: An Interim Report This is a witness testimony. Lorde, of Grenadian parents, visited the island before the bloodless New Jewel coup which overthrew a wasteful, corrupt US sanctioned regime, after the coup during the rule of the People's Revolutionary Government, and then after the US invasion of 1983. She is furious, because the PRG had improved every aspect of life for the people of Grenada, creatively, sutainably, and independently. And the invasion, patently unjustified and cynically motivated, is a wave of destruction uprooting that progress. I've probably read Chomsky's account of the same events, but Lorde tells it with personal horror and rage.

Sister Outsider is a profound work, and a strong, deep root out of which feminist praxis can take nourishment and grow. Lorde points out what must be done, and tells us how to begin our work together, with the power of our own deeply felt truths.
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews48.1k followers
December 15, 2022
Best feeling is when you finish a book and you're like...why did I wait so long?

I don't like reviewing nonfiction, because then it's just my thoughts vs facts, and usually the facts are presented by someone far smarter, more knowledgeable, and cooler than me.

And in this case...Audre Lorde beats me out on all three categories.

So - this is excellent and you should read it and that's the whole review.

Bottom line: Just read it!!


reading books by Black authors for Black History Month!

book 1: caste
book 2: business not as usual
book 3: the color purple
book 4: the parking lot attendant
book 5: kindred
book 6: wrapped up in you
book 7: the boyfriend project
book 8: a song below water
book 9: filthy animals
book 10: passing
book 11: seven days in june
book 12: ayiti
book 13: notes of a native son
book 14: mediocre
book 15: sister outsider
Profile Image for Tim Haslett.
14 reviews18 followers
February 7, 2008
Now wait, you've not read this book? Really? Maybe you're just kidding. "I have come to work on you like a drug or a chisel" wrote the late Audre Lorde. Her passing created a hollow space in my soul that is now filled again each time I read her prose & poetry.

Just because 'Sister Outsider' is assigned in virtually every women's studies and gender studies 101 class does not mean it is some awful book about soggy, liberal bureaucratic multiculturalism. Far from it.

Audre Lorde lived for a radical pedagogy and the transformation of life under the weight of white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, and classism and could she write? Hell, yeah. But never mind me repeating a mantra you've heard so often, please get a hold of a copy. I keep five copies on hand to give to folks I might meet. It might save your life the way it saved mine, and I am white, male and straight.

This book did not influence me, it made me

p.s-Folks, the new edition has a foreword by the indefatigable Cheryl Clarke. Clarke has been in the life for the longest, paying her dues, working at Rutgers forever. And her poetry & prose is, well, mandatory pretty much.
Profile Image for Cinzia DuBois.
Author 1 book2,751 followers
June 18, 2020
I cannot express how much I fell in love with Audre.
This is genuinely one of my favourite books of all time, a claim I haven't laid on a book in quite some time (perhaps over a year now? Maybe longer!)

The extent of the notes I took during reading is immense. Her pages are plastered with sticky tabs and margin crawling. Everything about her writing is majestic and phenomenally intelligent.

I've come out of this book feeling like I spent the past few days in silence, holding hands with a poet as she spoke to me across a table from me. Just now, she gave my hands a squeeze, got up, and walked from the room, leaving me alone.

I don't feel the same and I already miss her. What the most phenomenal woman to have spent the past few days with. I'll treasure them, and I'll carry on reading and listening.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,509 reviews2,441 followers
April 24, 2021
This book is of course a milestone of intersectional feminism, long before intersectional feminism was a thing - and considering the fact that Lorde spent a lot of time in Germany, it's pretty astounding that this is the first translation of her iconic collection of essays, speeches, and interviews that is published by a big publishing house here in Germany. Born in New York to immigrant parents from Barbados and Grenada, Lorde was a Black lesbian socialist feminist, and her main goal was to heighten the visibility of marginalized groups, secure their place in society and strengthen solidarity between members of the groups (e.g. Black women and men or Black and white feminists). To realize that ambition, she refrained from crafting complicated, highly theoretical texts, and rather wrote pieces that married the socially sound, the moral and the emotional, thus directly appealing to the social consciousness and the moral heart of her readers.

What I particularly love about Lorde is that she celebrates differences: She acknowledges that a lot of discrimination and lack of solidarity results from people being scared of or generally resenting what they are not or what they don't know, which of course means that they overlook or even repress the beauty of diversity and the power they could generate from the varied knowledge. And we still struggle with that. Case in point: As long as women are busy telling each other how to fill out female roles, the patriarchy will prevail. If oppressed groups would show more solidarity, they would be able not only to participate in the game, but to change the rules. Lorde tells her readers not to be afraid of the anger they experience, as creative disruption is just what we need.

Another captivating thought: Lorde states that it's a mistake to frame eroticism as a power opposed to rational thought. For her, eroticism/sensuality is the bridge between the spiritual and the politcal, it means the physical and emotional expression of passionate love. Lorde also offers a very strong essay about her role as a mother and how she wants to empower her son. What irritated me though was a text about her travel to Russia, which reads like a very naive piece that fails to capture what it means to live in a dictatorship.

In the book, the US is spelt as "america" (for obvious reasons) and in the German version, "race" remains untranslated (to a German for obvious reasons, but here's an explanation for international readers: The Nazis claimed the superiority of a (non-existent) "Aryan race", and in Germany today, only Neo-Nazis will use the term "Rasse" to describe people instead of animals). As texts by the German translators explain, Lorde helped to found the ISD (Initiative Schwarze Deutsche; Intiative Black Germans) and the ADEFRA (Afrodeutsche Frauen; Afro-German Women), she also held lectures and readings and initiated writing by Black German poets and activists, thus becoming an important figure for the strengthening of Black German feminism.

So you don't need me to point it out, but here I go: This is a classic text, go read it. But here's one last thought: While immersed in the book, I frequently thought: Well, we already know that, this is only of historical value - and then I realized: Yes, it's now common knowledge, but the situation hasn't changed, or not enough. We need to make old feminist writing feel historic, we need to make progress.

You can learn more about the book in our latest podcast episode (in German).
Profile Image for julieta.
1,138 reviews19.3k followers
July 2, 2021
Inspiring and beautiful, a necessary read.
"We do not have to romanticize our past in order to be aware of how it seeds our present. We do not have to suffer the waste of an amnesia that robs us the lessons of the past rather than permit us to read them with pride as well as deep understanding."

"The move to render the presence of lesbians and gay men invisible in the intricate fabric of Black existence and survival is a move which contributes to fragmentation and weakness in the black community."

"My black woman´s anger is a molten pond at the core of me, my most fiercely guarded secret."

"And true, sometimes it seems that anger alone keeps me alive; it burns with a bright and diminished flame. Yet anger, like guilt, is an incomplete form of human knoledge. More useful than hatred, but still limited. Anger is useful to help clarify our differences, but in the long run, strength that is bred by anger alone is a blind force which cannot create the future."
Profile Image for Lucy Dacus.
91 reviews14.4k followers
July 12, 2019
One of the greatest books of all time by one of the most brilliant minds of all time.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews593 followers
July 1, 2020
In her essay, "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," Audre Lorde quotes Simone de Beauvoir: "It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting."

Audre Lorde wrote about the genuine conditions of her life. She was a single mother. She was a black woman. A lesbian. A feminist. An educator. A poet. A daughter of immigrants. A cancer survivor. Her essays contextualize what is happening in the world right now and this collection simply enriched my life in the short weeks I spent with it.

I enjoyed how candidly she wrote, enjoyed the strength and courage emanating from her words. She was an agent for change and I think she would be marching and speaking against police violence today if she was still alive.

In "Age, Race Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference" Lorde addresses the importance of recognizing the oppression of women while also recognizing the differences of race, sexual preference, class, and age. She discusses the absence of the literature of women of color in literature and women studies courses, even listing the work of women whose work had been trivialized, like Angelina Grimke, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Lorraine Hansberry. She writes this and it sounds as if she were writing it now: "Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying."

In "Poetry is Not a Luxury," she writes about poetry as illumination, a way of bringing experience and feelings to the page: "we can train ourselves to respect our feelings and to transpose them into a language so that they can be shared."

In "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action" she addresses fear and those insecurities that make some hide from the truth, stating profoundly: "for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken."

In "An Interview: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich" the conversation is rich and inviting. Lorde speaks openly about her vulnerabilities as a writer, feeling "inarticulate, inscrutable, terrified to speak" and yet realizing that she could not put "weapons of silence" in her "enemies' hands." I enjoyed the ease with which she was able to correct her friend, Adrienne Rich, regarding perceptions, and still continue with intellectual dialogue.

In "The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism" she discusses the "anger of exclusion, of unquestioned privilege, of racial distortions, of silence..." She says: "when women of color speak out of anger that laces so many of our contacts with white women, we are often told that we are 'creating a mood of helplessness' or 'standing in the way of trusting communication and action.' " I liked how she spoke of anger as pain but also as survival mechanism; anger as a weapon of the oppressed.
Profile Image for Steph.
541 reviews269 followers
February 18, 2021
Oh, this book. Such a brilliant collection of essays, I won't even try to write a proper review. I'll just leave a quote from the essay The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism. This quote sums up what feminism is all about for me.
I am a lesbian woman of Color whose children eat regularly because I work in a university. If their full bellies make me fail to recognize my commonality with a woman of Color whose children do not eat because she cannot find work, or who has no children because her insides are rotted from home abortions and sterilization; if I fail to recognize the lesbian who chooses not to have children, the woman who remains closeted because her homophobic community is her only life support, the woman who chooses silence instead of another death, the woman who is terrified lest my anger trigger the explosion of hers; if I fail to recognize them as other faces of myself, then I am contributing not only to each of their oppressions but also to my own, and the anger which stands between us then must be used for clarity and mutual empowerment, not for evasion by guilt or for further separation. I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is any one of you.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,305 reviews750 followers
December 30, 2015
Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change. To those women here who fear the anger of women of Color more than their own unscrutinized racist attitudes, I ask: Is the anger of women of Color more threatening than the woman-hatred that tinges all aspects of our lives?
My latest favorite type of Tumblr blog is a variation on the theme of 'thisisnot_____', wherein a slew of responses to angry white tears let me know I'm on the right track. You see, I am in need of practice when it comes to differentiating the emotions of violation and annoyance, the situations of prejudice and hegemony, the fundamental difference between the reactions evoked by the 'ItAintRape' tag and when people of color call my group 'crackers' and 'mayo'. Neither religion nor common sense gives me what is required to develop my feminism beyond its white feminism mainstream of white supremacism, and if I am at times uncomfortable, well. I know the oppression begotten by believing my safe spaces should be able to intersect completely and utterly with everyone else's, for what is privilege if not speaking and knowing beyond a doubt you will be heard? There is also the matter that, as long as I have been at this, I have not yet found a discomfort comparable to my episodes of major depressive disorder. In a word, priorities, with no small amount of self-awareness to make the effort sustainable.
When an academic woman says, “I can’t afford it,” she may mean she is making a choice about how to spend her available money. But when a woman on welfare says, “I can’t afford it,” she means she is surviving on an amount of money that was barely subsistence in 1972, and she often does not have enough to eat. Yet the National Women’s Studies Association here in 1981 holds a conference in which it commits itself to responding to racism, yet refuses to waive the registration fee for poor women and women of Color who wished to present and conducted workshops. This has made it impossible for many women of Color — for instance, Wilmette Brown, of Black women for Wages for Housework — to participate in this conference. Is this to be merely another case of the academy discussing life within the closed circuits of the academy?
There is a living here that is not for me, save for when I wish to inform myself as inexorably as possible without invading safe spaces with the trauma induced by my white skin, the submission inculcated by my military industrial complexion. What was once solely a defect of social anxiety has become a boon in the realms of intersectionality, as my offline personality takes in the development of my online persona and parses out what it is dehumanizing from what is merely guilt. Indeed, offline existence has almost become a respite, so used am I to anger directed at all that I represent for every justifiable reason. Compared to the fury I've read in Tumblr posts, this work barely scrapes the surface of a twinge with its love, its eloquence, its call for community and lack of implication that all white people in the US should go back to Europe. In that, the danger is not backtracking out of annoyance but appropriating out of a false sense of welcome, so it is fortunate that I came to this already knowing better.
For white women there is a wider range of pretended choices and rewards for identifying with patriarchal power and its tools.

When patriarchy dismisses us, it encourages our murderers. When radical lesbian feminist theory dismisses us, it encourages its own demise.
What is this social justice I speak of? Is it a mockery? Is it a hating of whites? Is it perhaps post-menstrual syndrome, a time when a cis-gendered woman's body comes as close in testosterone level to those with which the cis-gendered male's body operates every time, all the time? Is it my neuroatypicality, a fancy word of self-empowerment that simply means that, by the standards of society, I am not considered sane. As a writer, I hone my craft on bleeding my feelings into my pen and keyboard, and those feelings are rarely kind, never peaceful, and every so often disinter themselves from the breed that shoots up schools and rains down drones. As a white woman, social justice is the art of inherent power as propagated towards the self and pressed upon the other, an art that will ask 'who' and 'how' and 'why' and say, above all else, 'no'. Sometime in the future, a 'yes' may be possible when the Chapel Hill shooting's status as a hegemonic hate crime is not birthed in limbo, when white women stop diagnosing the choices of black women in order to 'help', when I no longer have to choose the lesser evil of academia over the greater one of the drug industry in order to fulfill my socioeconomic quota with doing what I love. Until then, readers who are white, do not infantilize this work with unconditional acceptance and utter lack of self-reflexivity. Do so, and you whitewash this narrative into policed gentrification, and that is a fucking disgrace.
For it is not the anger of Black women which is dripping down over this globe like a diseased liquid. It is not my anger that launches rockets, spends over sixty thousand dollars a second on missiles and other agents of war and death, slaughters children in cities, stockpiles nerve gas and chemical bombs, sodomizes our daughters and our earth. It is not the anger of Black women which corrodes into blind, dehumanizing power, bent upon the annihilation of us all unless we meet it with what we have, our power to examine and to redefine the terms upon which we will live and work; our power to envision and to reconstruct, anger by painful anger, stone upon heavy stone, a future of pollinating differences and the earth to support our choices.
Priorities, people. Priorities.
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,404 reviews2,353 followers
October 30, 2021
Frequently, when speaking with men and white women, I am reminded of how difficult and time-consuming it is to have to reinvent the pencil every time you want to send a message

This is my first time reading Audre Lorde and man..... I am kicking myself for not getting to her essays sooner. I learned so much, she speak of things that frustates me that I can't seem to put into word, and I'm shocked and not really surprised that the things she wrote about now are still plaguing us today.... *sigh*

I particularly LOVED the essay about Moscow and Grenada- I feel a lot of people don't know about what was done to Grenada and I am so happy to see it written down a documented.
Profile Image for Hayley.
Author 2 books4,067 followers
March 28, 2021
I could read her writing all day
Profile Image for Rachel.
550 reviews874 followers
February 19, 2019
Sister Outsider was a really fantastic introduction to Audre Lorde for me, though its episodic nature isn't my favorite way to digest nonfiction and I think I would have preferred to stay on track with any one of these essays for a hundred pages rather than to bounce around from topic to topic the way this collection is structured (though all pieces are obviously interconnected to an extent). But still, this is a sharp and insightful and seminal work that I'd recommend.
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
660 reviews3,881 followers
June 9, 2020
"For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him his own game, but they will never enable us to bring genuine change"

My first foray into Audre Lorde outside of the odd extract read in university and I loved it. This is absolutely essential reading for intersectional feminism, queer theory, Black Lesbian lit and just race/class/gender commentary. It is alarming how recent some of the issues Lorde brings up feel, not much has maybe changed. Brilliantly written, every essay highly engaging and worthwhile. An all-around must-read for everyone. I cannot wait to read more Audre Lorde, and to reread this once I have a physical copy and can highlight/take notes

My top five favourites were

- Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power
- The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House
- Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response
- Grenada Revisited: An Interim Report
- Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving

Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,040 reviews3,437 followers
January 28, 2021
How I've gotten this far in my life without having read Audre Lorde I don't know but Sister Outsider should be required reading and it's something I anticipate returning to again in the future. It is a powerful, insightful, thought-provoking collection of essays from an eminent Black, lesbian, feminist poet and thinker. Her writing is by turns incisive, witty, raw, and vulnerable. She does not pull her punches, but is just as ruthless in critiquing her own biases and flaws as she is others.

There is a lot that could be said here, but I'm particularly struck by the way she talked about women's anger because they parallel conversations we continue to have today. About the power and potential of female rage when it is directed into change. Her thinking is deeply intersectional as well and she is careful to express the importance of inclusion and value to everyone and of true allyship across lines. This includes men, straight women, white women and more. Though she also recognizes the places this can be difficult due to racism or homophobia or sexism. She lays out the aggressions and micro-agressions faced by Black women throughout their lives, the specific fears of Black motherhood, the everyday racism thoughtlessly visited on her and others by white women who are hateful or merely oblivious.

Frequently while reading I could see threads of thought or arguments that I have seen carried into more recent works of antiracist or intersectionally feminist literature. It's fascinating to see the origins of such significant ideas. And while Lorde talks about her queerness specifically, it's also clear that this was intended to be a book with a wider audience than only queer women. She expresses deep care for the bonds of sisterhood and the power of people coming together, even if that care has sometimes led to deep pain. As a white woman, I was struck by her words about the importance of listening to the CONTENT of what someone is saying, rather than the tone or attitude it is delivered with. It is valid for women of color to feel and express anger and it is only through listening to understand without being offended by the tone of what is being said that we can reach understanding and healing. This is true across racial lines, and within them.

There's a lot more that I took from this, but I will just say go read it! And take your time. I spent nearly an entire month reading this in short bits, digesting what she had to say. I think that is the way to go. Absolutely a new nonfiction favorite for me.
Profile Image for Claire.
650 reviews279 followers
January 26, 2019
Audre Lorde was a poet, academic, speaker, feminist activist, sister and mother of two, who grew up in 1930’s Harlem. She wrote 12 books and tragically passed away at the age of 58 from cancer in 1992.

I’ve had her collection of essays Sister Outsider on my list of books I wanted to read for a few years, I came across it after reading an article or blog post that put it at or near the top of books one should read if interested in feminism, gender, equality. They are the kind of books that those who studied the humanities and perhaps took women and/or gender studies will have had an awareness of and the rest have to dig a little to find out about. All that is made easier today as we are able to follow readers, writers who share articles, lists, books of interest via twitter or online reading groups etc.

And while some of Lorde’s experience will be unique to her and those who relate to her experience as a black lesbian poet and academic in America, it is both the differences and the universality of her message that interests me, her lucid prose carries the telltale markings of a poet set free from that form, of a woman with an elevated consciousness whose reflections teach us something, break through common misconceptions. She invites us to listen and learn.

The collection both begins and ends with essays that focus on her travelling outside the US, a literal perception of her as an outsider, however the main body of work centers around issues within her country of birth, where that feeling of ‘outsider’, arrives because of the way we relate to others, or how they relate to our race, identity, gender, sexual orientation, class.


I loved this opening essay, what an amazing opportunity to travel to Moscow for a conference, an experience that affected her so deeply, she dreamed about it every night for weeks after her return. We read this and sense how little we really know about life in a country where most of what we see, read and hear is a form of propaganda our respective country’s wish us to believe, not the lives of ordinary people going to work, or the little things that might impress us, different from our own normal.

Her first observation begins with the woman in the seat in front of her on the plane, travelling alone. She assists her, noticing she wears three medals.
“Hero of the Republic medals, I learned later. Earned for hard work.

This is something I noticed all over: the very old people in Russia have a stamp upon them that I hope I can learn and never lose, a matter-of-fact resilience and sense of their place upon the earth that is very sturdy and reassuring.”

She doesn’t say much about the conference, it is the everyday differences ad similarities she is interested in and notices. One evening before dinner she walks outside and enters a Metro station just to watch the faces of people coming in and out. The strangest thing she notices was that there were no Black people and the ticket collector and station manger were women.
The station was very large and very beautiful and very clean – shockingly, strikingly, enjoyably clean. The whole station looked like a theatre lobby – bright brass and mosaics and shiny chandeliers.

And then on to Tashkent, a place of contrasts, a people, Uzbeki who are Asian and they are Russian, people she senses are warm-blooded, familiar, engaging. The old part looks to her like a town in Ghana or Dahomey, African in so many ways. She meets a woman who enlightens her on the history of the women of Uzbekistan, women who fought to who their faces and go to school, and they died for it. Different struggles, hard-earned progress, both inspirational and cautionary.


A mini four page essay full of light that I read and reread, because it ignites one’s inner creativity, I search for a passage to share and find it almost too restricting to condense her flow of thoughts into one phrase. It is this essay that demonstrates Lorde’s evolved consciousness and connection to a women’s sense of power that comes from some ancient, deep place, something that cries out to be illuminated.

It is poignant to reread this again now, in the days that follow the passing of another great woman poet, Mary Oliver whose collection A Thousand Mornings I am reminded of when I read Lorde’s thoughts on the power and benefit of poetry, whether we are writing it or reading it.
For women, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams towards survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

Poetry provides new ways of making ideas felt, it allows symbolism to replace that which can’t often be articulated, and it is that ancient connection to divine feminine energy that puts us back in touch with our ability to see through signs and symbols.


Lorde begins to address the complicit silence of women in this essay and will return to it in subsequent essays, leading up to The Uses of Anger where she challenges them into action, even if that means active listening, reading and learning, to become more aware.

In this essay she speaks of the fear of coming out of silence, because that transformation is an act of self-revelation, that seems fraught with danger.
In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear – fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgement, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live.

In MASTER’S TOOLS she confronts our differences and speaks of the arrogance of discussing feminist theory without examining these and input from poor women, Black and Third World women, and lesbians, that as women we have been taught either to ignore our differences or see them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than forces for change.
It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.

In THE USES OF ANGER: WOMEN RESPONDING TO RACISM, though she speaks within the context of racism towards Black women, giving examples of how implicit this can be in the language of white women who don’t consider themselves racist (unconscious bias and privilege have been embedded in our societies for centuries), her dissection and exploration of the transformative power of anger goes beyond racism and has been applied to feminism and the voice of women trying to progress in other areas.

She likens anger and fear as spotlights that can be used for growth, rejecting guilt and defensiveness, pushing women to strive for better than that.
Every women has a well stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision, it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. If we accept our powerlessness, then of course any anger can destroy us.

Dr Brittany Cooper, in her book Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower takes her work further on behalf of Black women suggesting that ultimately feminism, friendship, and faith in one’s own superpowers are what we need to turn things around, while Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger tracks the history of women’s anger from the past to the present. She deconstructs society’s and the media’s condemnation of female emotion (notably, rage) and the impact of their resulting repercussions. These two authors, recently came together in conversation to discuss the common ground between their books, you can read more about that or listen to them by visiting this post How Sister Outsider Lead to a Chat Between Eloquent Rage and Good and Mad.

The collection ends with another visit, this time to a place that was always referred to as home, the birthplace of her mother, GRENADA REVISITED. She remembers the first time she visited in 1979, children in their uniforms carrying their shoes as they walked along the busy seafront, the main thoroughfare to school; the woman cooking fish in the market, the full moon. It was just eleven months before the political coup that ousted a 30 year regime, ‘wasteful, corrupt and United States sanctioned’.

The second time (1983) she came in mourning following the invasion by the United States, ‘the rationalisations which collapse under weight of the facts’ details of which are shared in this piece, subtitled ‘An Interim Report’.

Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, visited Grenada in 2017 and though familiar with Lorde’s essay, read it afresh before landing. Her essay Dawn After the Tempests published in the New York Times pays tribute to Lorde’s visit and is a fitting follow-up.

Overall, it’s a diverse and thought-provoking collection, that continues to inspire readers and writers alike.
“[Lorde’s] works will be important to those truly interested in growing up sensitive, intelligent, and aware.” New York Times

Further Reading

Edwidge Danticat, Dawn After the Tempests New York Times
Profile Image for Ipsa.
184 reviews199 followers
March 18, 2022
I'm lost. She's lost. We don't see each other clearly. She is my mirror. Her existence is etched with my fury. So it gives me vision -- an anger that hides a yearning for connection. An anger that hides my need to be touched by her; to be held by her; to be oiled by her. But I fear she will see in my face the distorted image of her self-hatred: so I have no desire to get over the anger fomented by her appearance, by the vision of her existence. It's easier to erect the myth of my superiority and restlessness, than take on the threatning universe of her obliterative mirror-image. It's easier to look down on her from my internalised standards of the master's model of humanity. It's easier to kill her. I'm not worthy of being human. She is my mirror. She's not worthy of being human. So I hate her. We're animals. I hate her. She's me. It breaks my heart. I want to bury myself between her legs. I want to tear her apart. I want to cradle her at night. I want to slit her neck at night. I want to be gentle with her. I want to tear her to shreds every time her voice doesn't melt with mine; every time she isn't better than me. After all, what will hold my self-hating spine erect? What will contain the shame of slithering around in the seminal pool of my own vomit, and blood?

There is a pretense to a homogeneity of experience covered by the word sisterhood that does not in fact exist.

Sister Outsider is charged with the erotic: the erotism of anger; the erotism of why women are more competitive towards other women than men; the erotism of hatred; the erotism of politics. Make no mistake, this isn't pornography, a jaded excuse of the Erotic. It is life itself. It is the deep dark energy that flows in the body. Yours and mine. An energy that spurs us to understand, to action, to destroy, to create. We are afraid of our differences. Women are afraid of their differences. Marginalised people are afraid of their differences. So we tip-toe forever in the realms of superficial political correctness, and an exhausting politeness. Meanwhile, we shut ourselves in a dark dingy corner of our minds: forever distrustful, isolated, and only half-made. But we owe it to ourselves to reach down into that deep dark place, see and define the face that our terror of difference wears.

Audre Lorde unearths the collection of these essays from the subterranean depths of her mind, her body, her experiences. I've never seen or read a more visceral exploration of the hackneyed adage: Personal is Political. Her poetry is theory. Her life is theory. Yours and mine too. Theory has to be visceral, because pain is visceral; because life is visceral. Revolution doesn't happen through cold hard facts only; it happens every time we hurl ourselves head first into each other; every time we dare to look each other in the eyes, in a reckless abandon, and explore our differences. Liberation is painful. It's not polite.

Everybody should read this book. Trust me, it will know parts of you that you don't have words for. Let it touch you. Let it turn you on. Let it bring you back to your body.

Profile Image for Noria.
202 reviews
July 30, 2019
Nobody has the power quite like Audre to have you sit with her thoughts, argue them out with her, disagree, get angry that you're disagreeing because she has already called you out on it in her essay and then have you walk away, only to come back, calm and ready to learn at the hands of a woman with a brilliant mind, a way of breaking down her theories and thoughts in the clearest, most concise, most unflinching and most vulnerable way possible and the desire to have the world and most importantly PEOPLE do better, and be better, and expect better from others. This is a book to keep, hers are words to go back to over and over, to debate, to learn and unlearn.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,462 reviews560 followers
September 5, 2021
A strong, powerful collection from a writer/activist/poet that I'm embarrassed to admit, I had not even heard of before I read a few reviews on GR. Lorde is honest, clear-eyed, caring and accessible.
Profile Image for Rachel.
8 reviews16 followers
March 17, 2008
the bible just not doing it for ya? feel disappointed by the christian science monitor? maybe not getting the guidance you need from the koran or buddha... this shit is a new religion- all the spiritual guidance you'll ever need. well. it's fucking good and smart and amazing and no good feminist worth their (gender unspecific) salt would go without referencing lorde.

the uses of the erotic, some notes and master's tools are absolute requirements if you don't wanna do the whole thing. oh. and, um, straight white dudes with privilege might have trouble. like hooks she's really easy to read, but unlike hooks she's got way more fucking soul. this reads like an unintentional manifesto and though it is kinda focused on working class, queer, black feminist thought (what? not you?), it is still accessible and relevant to a much broader spectrum. this book shows a little of it's age being written in the 80's (it's sandwiched by essays concerning russia and grenada), but i think it's pretty good at transcending generations. or i could get down with it. and me and audre have a couple of spacers between us.
Profile Image for Kevin.
493 reviews82 followers
December 24, 2022
“Audre Lorde’s voice is central to the development of contemporary feminist theory. She is at the cutting edge of consciousness.” ~Nancy K. Bereano, December 1983

One of the great gifts of reading, if you do it long enough, and hard enough, is that you have a greater awareness of all there is that you do not know. Lorde is, herself, a conveyer of such gifts. This brilliant, Black, lesbian, feminist poet brings to light an abundance of disparities between what is our perception and what is her reality; not to build walls, but to tear them down.

What makes her a National Treasure is not just what she says, but also how she says it. Sister Outsider bridges that gap between poetry and prose, occupying that space somewhere between heart and mind - it is both and it is neither.

“Advocating the mere tolerance of difference... is the grossest reformism. It is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives. Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate...”

Lorde died of cancer in November, 1992. She was 58 years old. I feel what can be said of Sylvia Plath and Christopher Hitchens can most certainly be said of Audre Lorde; we are all a little worse for the loss.

“I have suckled the wolf’s lip of anger and I have used it for illumination, laughter, protection, fire in places where there was no light, no food, no sisters, no quarter. We are not goddesses or matriarchs or edifices of divine forgiveness; we are not fiery fingers of judgement or instruments of flagellation; we are women forced back always upon our women’s power. We have learned to use anger as we have learned to use the dead flesh of animals, and bruised, battered, and changing, we have survived and grown and, in Angela Wilson’s words, we ARE moving on.”
7 reviews7 followers
May 11, 2011
This book was amazing. At times I look at the world and it's inequities and it makes me feel as if I am losing my mind. How can you look at the hurt and pain caused by the imbalance of power, the squandering of vital resources, pride exercised by the complete put down of whole groups of people and not want to scream. At the very least do some one thing to help the starving person next to you. I sometimes feel that I live in a world where many suffer but many more walk around as if they were anesthetized.

Audre Lorde let's me know that I have not lost my mind. She helps me to continue the struggle. Every day is a struggle and if it helps just one somebody it is well worth the struggle. Thank you Audre Lorde.
Profile Image for Lily Herman.
543 reviews572 followers
September 2, 2020
I don't think there's really much left to say about Audre Lorde (especially by me, a random ass white lady). I'll just say that there's a reason that Audre Lorde is Audre Lorde, and if you ever need proof of that, just read Sister Outsider.

I don't think you can read anything by Lorde and not furiously scribble down what she's telling you, so here's one of my favorite quotes from this collection: “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”

Audre Lorde makes you feel them viscerally.
Profile Image for Kevin.
277 reviews741 followers
May 30, 2020
Lorde was foundational to intersectionality, along with Angela Y. Davis (Women, Race, and Class).

The Good:
--The most striking essays to me are Lorde’s (often directly personal) reflections on dealing with non-intersectional feminism, other black women, and being a black lesbian mother while raising a boy. It seems clear that those who share closer experiences can instantly unlock vaults of memories and understanding from brief passages; for certain gulfs, all I can do is be receptive and appreciate the differences.
--What made me most excited to explore Lorde’s works was her influence on global/Third-World feminism. There are glimpses of this as the collection starts with Lorde’s visit to Soviet Russia, and ends with her visit to her familial roots of Grenada (post-US invasion). Her critiques of US imperialism/neocolonialism (military and economic terror to enforce ideal conditions for US corporations' global division of labor, as well as racism against black and other coloured self-determination and progress) are brief but on point!
…This is what separates Lorde (and Angela Davis, i.e. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle) from those who focus exclusively on domestic US issues and fail to connect with the empire’s global presence.

The Missing:
--It’s always tricky reviewing early writings on transformative ideas; it doesn’t help that several essays collected are already brief to begin with.
--Detailed structural analysis of Third-World feminism/global capitalism/global division of labor (to elaborate on Lorde's "Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people") will have to be found elsewhere. I need to finish Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity; the dense academic writing requires an accessible edition for a wider audience.
...Also excited for Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentring Oppression, which does have an accessible edition: Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto.
Profile Image for may ➹.
480 reviews1,938 followers
December 31, 2021
“The way you get people to testify against themselves is not to have police tactics and oppressive techniques. What you do is build it in so people learn to distrust everything in themselves that has not been sanctioned, to reject what is most creative in themselves to begin with, so you don’t even need to stamp it out.”

Audre Lorde’s works in this collection are a must-read, its topics ranging from the intersecting difficulties of being a Black lesbian woman in a racist, homophobic, misogynistic world, the complete failures of white feminism, and the anger and criticism Black women (mis)direct toward each other. I found each piece to be interesting and thought-provoking in their own ways, Lorde’s writing smart and incredibly engaging. Some of what she wrote about was heartbreaking in the sense that not many issues have changed today, even 40-50 years later. Definitely recommend picking this up—Lorde’s background in poetry clearly shines through in this collection and her words hold so much significance even now.
Profile Image for Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm).
672 reviews204 followers
March 25, 2021
"For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master's house as their only source of support."

I read Audre Lorde for the first time through a tiny turquoise Penguin Modern edition in 2018 in December sitting outside the New Delhi Railway Station on the footpath in the winter cold while I waited for one of my best friends to arrive for a much-anticipated visit. It was a selection of five essays, picked from Sister Outsider. I had begun it immediately after finishing the Baldwin book in the same series, my first time reading him as well.

Underdressed, shivering a bit, bright street lamp above me, I was charged and changed. I knew words had power and, in that moment, I felt it anew, coursing through me. A little over two years later, as I read Sister Outsider at last in the comfort of my bed, those same feelings slowly resurfaced.

This absolutely brilliant collection is bookended by two reports which show US imperialism and how it shapes global perception in its favour. The one at the start is about a trip to Russia in 1976 for some conference. Built from her edited journal entries, Lorde is very effusive about the living conditions & general atmosphere under socialism, though she is skeptical about achievement of a perfect society.

In the one at the end, she talks about two visits to Grenada, her mother's birthplace, five years apart before the revolution and after the US invasion. She tracks all the changes in a scathing critique of neocolonialism. Talking generally, while the pieces are set apart from each other in different formats, they touch upon similar set of themes and ideas.

As this space isn't enough to discuss each piece in detail—and I would have loved to do that—I will attempt to uncover the many central concerns that undergird Lorde's nonfiction writing. Maybe some day I will write a long and exhaustive piece on her works, poetry included, once I have read all of it.

Striking feature of her essays is how she taps into a Black female legacy, the antecedents of pride and power stretching from the Amazons of Dahomey to the Ashanti warrior queen Yaa Asantewaa to the abolitionist and social activist Harriet Tubman.

Capitalist forces, white america, the status-quo thrive on a policy of divide and conquer. Black people, and especially Black women, always exist in a heightened sense of anxiety and tension, never able to relax and rest. So Unsure of themselves and suspicious of others, they are hence prevented from forming sustainable, enriching bonds.

So Lorde sees differences that divide as a creative and necessary force for the exchange of ideas, for transformation. It is the first step in the process of coming together as a community. Dispelling the distortions constructed by the people in power is the only way towards solidarity, unity, and action.

Contrary to what the enemies propagate, it doesn't mean sameness or homogeneity, instead a shared purpose. She strongly advocates for self-definition for Black women. Only they get to decide who they are as individuals, what they want for themselves.

In her view, anger must be unleashed, not bottled up. Rage must be released, not restrained. If pain, both collective as well as individual, is not properly addressed, it metastasizes into suffering. The only solution is to channel it to speak truth to power, to demand change, birthing one shining sisterhood.
Profile Image for  Imani ♥ ☮.
596 reviews94 followers
August 9, 2016
I wavered back and forth for a good minute, trying to figure out if I would give this a four star rating or a five star rating. I resolved for five, just because I liked some of the essays more than others. All of them were stunning, but I especially liked Eye to Eye and her account on Moscow, Grenada and raising a black son as a black lesbian.

Audre Lorde has been like a haunt to me in some ways. A name I never felt I could pronounce properly. A name I heard but never read. A book written by a woman with *taboo* identities. A black lesbian woman. It is not a book I would have thought to pick up when I was younger...what would that have to do with me? Why would I read such a thing, so bold in its naturalness and so stunning in its defiance. I have no words to begin to describe the things I felt while reading Lorde. I know for one thing that the regalness that characterizes her name can certainly be backed up by every single word she penned over the years that found its way into Sister Outsider. And what's so amazing about that is Lorde is a poet by trade, and yet her poetic essays are probably some of the best I've ever read. This book is written by a black lesbian, of which she reminds the reader constantly. And this identity is embedded into every word in a way that you cannot forget - which is for the better. Lorde said it best about defining herself and indeed, the way she do so in these essays spoke through so clearly that it may be of relative inconsequence that one may not immediately identify with all her aspects of identity. How precious and life changing a book this is.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,615 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.