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Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

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ZAMI is a fast-moving chronicle. From the author's vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Audre Lorde's work is cyclical. It especially relates the linkage of women who have shaped her . . . Lorde brings into play her craft of lush description and characterization. It keeps unfolding page after page.
--Off Our Backs

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1982

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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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,303 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,642 reviews5,091 followers
January 14, 2013
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 that life and those stories were filled with poetry and passion. she told me about growing up in harlem; she told me what it felt like to be an outsider. she told me about her own weaknesses, her own cruelties, and how she was able to move past them and to forgive them, to forgive herself by understanding herself. she showed me how our lives are of our own creation, how our biography is our personal mythology is our own personal reality is our own personal way that we define ourselves in order to survive. she celebrated and she mourned and she deepened my spirit. i fucking love you, Audre Lorde! such a guiding influence.
Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews946 followers
October 28, 2019
I did not know this was a book about love.

More than anything, more than about New York City in the '50s, more than being Black and gay and poor and female in that uneasy time, more than about the sensuality of food and the precise pleasures of style, more than about hustle and poetry and Audre's fraught relationship with her mother and the longing for an unknown home, for Granada and Carriacou, it is about loving women.

I must add that these things are not separable. I cannot in any kind of faith tease it out as a strand. Audre writes of loving women inside all these other shells and spaces and non-spaces, all these stiflings and terrors and sufferings, all these joys and expansions into self and glory. Loving women, unfolding into all these places of being, where it seems to Audre that lesbians are the only women talking to each other, supporting each other emotionally at all in the '50s. She and her friends and lovers invent the sisterhood the feminist movement obsessed about decades later.

In one scene, Audre's mother hits her for not understanding racism, even though she has done her utmost to prevent her from knowing and understanding it, has made the topic of race taboo. Is she angry with the people who hurt her daughter or frustrated that she can't control the world to protect her? In any case, the punishment doesn't make sense, revealing the divisiveness of white supremacy, the power it has to restrict and shrink love.

In this anthology Cupcakes And Kalashnikovs I read a vignette from Zami in which Audre aged 12 and her sisters and parents go to Washington to celebrate graduations from grade and high school. They go into an ice cream parlour and they are not served because they are black. Reading this episode in context, I can see that it is entirely toothless and for the anthology to include it as one of the woefully few items that deal with race now seems utterly reactionary. I think about the discomfort of the white server who told them she 'couldn't' serve them. This manifestation of legal racism was soon to be swept away, thanks to pressure of black activism. It seems to me that racially charged situations that makes whites feel embarrassed are good leverage, while aspects of racism that only benefit whites are more difficult to combat. The sections that deal with the hideously unsafe factory work Lorde and other black women and men did to survive indict the culture of racism far more incisively, as she herself points out, noting that being able to eat whatever she wants anywhere in Washington didn't seem that important in the context of her struggle to survive.

There was an echo for me of bell hooks' essay 'Blood Works' in Art on My Mind: Visual Politics when Audre recalls stains on her pillow from nose bleeds being 'at least a sign of something living'. This appreciation belongs to an awareness of life's precariousness and preciousness inculcated by tragedy, and the will to live beyond survival.

It's the loveliest book, honestly, it's so erotic, so beautiful, so warming and tender. Such words lead towards a sweeter way of being.
Profile Image for Shanna Hullaby.
11 reviews8 followers
August 11, 2014
My new favorite book. Lorde tells all the secrets I was too afraid to tell in language more eloquent than my dreams.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,178 reviews1,935 followers
September 11, 2021
“Maybe that is all any bravery is, a stronger fear of not being brave.”
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.”
Lorde refers to this as a biomythography, which is a combination of biography, myth and history. Lorde says that the word Zami is a Carriacou word (Carriacou is a small island in the Caribbean where Lorde’s mother was born) which means women who work together as friends and lovers. This is, amongst other things, a book about love. It follows Lorde’s formative years and takes us up to around 1960. There is a great deal about racism, being a lesbian in 1950s America, friendship and community and Lorde’s difficult relationship with her mother.
“Images of women flaming like torches adorn and define the borders of my journey, stand like dykes between me and the chaos. It is the images of women, kind and cruel, that lead me home.”

This is not an easy read and repays time and careful reading. It is a great book, one that really should be much more widely known, especially here in the UK. Lorde expresses herself very well:
“I remember how being young and Black and gay and lonely felt. A lot of it was fine, feeling I had the truth and the light and the key, but a lot of it was purely hell.
There were no mothers, no sisters, no heroes. We had to do it alone, like our sister Amazons, the riders on the loneliest outposts of the Kingdom of Dahomey. We, young and Black and fine and gay, sweated out our first heartbreaks with no school nor office chums to share that confidence over lunch hour. Just as there were no rings to make tangible the reason for our happy secret smiles, there were no names nor reason given or shared for the tears that messed up the lab reports or the library bills.
We were good listeners, and never asked for double dates, but didn’t we know the rules? Why did we always seems to think friendships between women were important enough to care about? Always we moved in a necessary remoteness that made “What did you do this weekend?” seem like an impertinent question. We discovered and explored our attention to women alone, sometimes in secret, sometimes in defiance, sometimes in little pockets that almost touched (“Why are those little Black girls always either whispering together or fighting?”) but always alone, against a greater aloneness. We did it cold turkey, and although it resulted in some pretty imaginative tough women when we survived, too many of us did not survive at all.”
Lorde writes very well and has the ability to sum things up in a rather pithy way, as she sums up the 1950s:
"The Rosenbergs had been executed, the transistor radio had been invented, and frontal lobotomy was the standard solution for persistent deviation."
Lorde writes about her lived experience of marginalisation and she really is a pioneer. One of my favourite reads.
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews503 followers
December 27, 2015
I went into this book knowing very little about Audre Lorde other than she was a black, lesbian poet. I may have read some of her poetry back in college, but I am shocked Zami wasn't assigned reading at the time.

My parents were not West Indian, I am not a lesbian, I didn't grow up in Harlem in the fifties, I wasn't alive during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I didn't have to leave the country because of McCarthyism (although I'd like to leave for not dissimilar reasons). And yet this book spoke to me in a way that rarely happens - more than other books and authors that probably easily get lumped in with Lorde (Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, etc.).

Lorde wrote about being an outsider. To read her experiences today probably doesn't mean a lot to many readers because a lot has changed in the world since Lorde was young (at least on paper - I argue things haven't changed much at all except no one likes to talk about it openly). But I have always been an outsider in my own way, and I could relate to Lorde's story even though we have very little in common. She knew that you could be an individual but also to be made up of every person we have shared a piece of our history with, for better or worse.

There's a dreamy quality to Lorde's writing, more than just poetry (which is there because she was a poet), some repetition but in order to make a point. It's sort of like how as you get to know people and share stories, sometimes stories repeat themselves because that's just how it happens. There's no reason that it needs to be edited out - these are our lives, these are our stories, and they're important, especially if you want to really know someone.

I'm totally fascinated by the term Lorde coined, "biomythography" - I read here that she was quoted to have said biomythography "has the elements of biography and history of myth. In other words, it’s fiction built from many sources. This is one way of expanding our vision."

I could not love that statement more.
Profile Image for Sunny.
666 reviews3,414 followers
March 24, 2023
Complicated immigrant mother/dyke daughter relationships can be something soooo
Profile Image for K Agbebiyi .
194 reviews716 followers
April 1, 2019
Audre Lorde's writing makes me feel seen. She knew what it was like to argue with your mother, adjust to your body, learn your worth despite being around white people. She knew how strange and awkward growing up was, to have dreams that didn't make sense to other people. She knew how to build a community of queer and dramatic and loving and smart friends, she knew how to write about the younger versions of herself with love and care. She knew what it meant to be Black, to be in between, but most importantly Audre knew what it felt like to love women, and to love them deeply. She captured these feelings in one of the best books that I have ever read.
Profile Image for Aaron.
34 reviews6 followers
March 23, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
917 reviews947 followers
November 24, 2016

My second time reading this, the first being many years ago as an undergrad, has reinforced my love for this book, and my love for Lorde herself, her prose, poetry and essays (all of which you should go check out).

She is right about so much, and so much of what she says we desperately need to hear in these broken and divided times.

These are not from this book, but I share them anyway:

"Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing."

"Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society's definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference—those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older—know that survival is not an academic skill. 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. 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 am a bleak heroism of words that refuse to be buried alive with the liars."

I think it would not be hyperbolic to say that reading this linked piece by her at the age of about 19 completely changed me and my view of the world:

Profile Image for Kemunto  ✧˚ .
142 reviews27 followers
February 22, 2023
No words. Audre, I love you💗

~ “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 women together was not enough. We were different. Being Black dykes together was not enough. We were different.”

Audre Lorde's descriptions of her life in New York made such an impression on me that the city regularly features in my dreams... It's always hard to grasp where I am in those dreams but once I wake up, I just know I was in her city, or at least what my minds thinks 1950s New York to be. This book! I'll never forget it💫

~ And again, this passage brought me to my knees. Audre, I'll try.“It was only the Muriel in my head I had to give up, or keep forever; the Muriel peering up from the couch belonged to herself, whoever she wished to be”

Zami: A New Spelling of my Name
Audre Lorde


Profile Image for Lesley.
120 reviews14 followers
April 13, 2021
Although a linear account of her life in the traditional autobiography sense, it’s also very much about the women who made Audre Lorde what she was, from the start: her mother and her forebears, her sisters, high school friends, and lovers - a web of women’s lives with Audre at the centre. That sounds much more nurturing than it actually was; most of these relationships were fraught, with her mother especially, and the narrative is shot through with pain and loss.

Let’s get the downsides out of the way first. First, she does rather over-share. It’s very ‘intimate’, let’s say, especially in terms of her puberty and sexual journey, which is all pretty sweaty. The narrative is uneven, lumpy, and overwritten at times. And it descends into a bit of mush of reminiscences of past loves towards the end, although the depiction of the girl bars of 1950s New York was memorable (and not so dissimilar to 1980s London in many ways, plus ca change). But her courage, sensuality and fuck-this attitude throughout her life’s journey are what lingers, so I’ll cut her prose some slack.

I loved the sense of Audre unfurling, from someone who should have been nobody, a low-aspirationed clerical worker at best, growing into the majestic figure she became. From lonely, near-blind child born into poverty, to rebellious teenager who broke free of her family and their tiny world, to swaggering baby butch (aww), to activist / poet / lioness, finding her own voice and values and self-belief. She was never one to accept her place. But it meant a life of not fitting in: too free-spirited for her family, too clever at school, too black for the gay scene, too feminist for the socialists. Sister outsider, indeed. So she had to do her own thing, and find her own path, and we are richer for it, thank the goddess for that. An interesting read rather than a great one.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
November 8, 2018
I’ve never read a memoir where I’ve felt intimidated by and not cool enough to be friends with the writer. Audre Lorde is that cool! Even though it’s an honest and beautiful memoir, it did strike me that she’s a different and more brave kind of person than I could ever be.
Profile Image for Inderjit Sanghera.
450 reviews91 followers
June 1, 2019
The nacreous lustre of New York blazes forth from the imagination of Lorde; a kaleidoscope of colours and cultures, from 1930's Harlem and the feeling or repression, desperation and poverty mixed with hope for a new future, to the bohemian 1950's Village;

"Later, I came to love the way the plants filtered the Southern exposure sun through the moon. Light hit the opposite wall at a point about six inches above the thirty-gallon fish tank that murmured softly, like a quiet jewel, standing on its wrought iron legs, glowing and mysterious".

Interspersed with the fleeting moments of beauty which Lorde captures is the feeling of alienation, of not belonging, of being burdened by not just being black, but a woman and a lesbian-a triple load which weighs heavy on her. From her childhood, where she is forced to bear not just only the heavy oppression of her domineering mother, but also the prejudices of the school system, to her adulthood where she is forced to confront the limited life choices she has both in work and in her love life, Lorde is able to reach a sort of apotheosis via the women she describes during the novel, the emotions which they bring out her allow to to slowly and interminably reconnect with her own sense of humanity and identity; 

"Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from me-so different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognize her."
Profile Image for Bri.
Author 1 book178 followers
June 15, 2020
Erotic and full of tenderness, pain, determined love, and self-exploration, whatever the cost. More in depth RTC.
Profile Image for jq.
188 reviews155 followers
December 31, 2021
Reading this aloud over discord, word by word, line by line, chapter by chapter, with Melissa (and also watching episodes of the 2018 Meteor Garden remake) was such a special and beautiful experience. With love to Miriam for gifting this to me for my birthday.

There's not much I can say in this review! How can I encapsulate all the things it's made me feel and think about over these past few months, when it's inevitably going to shape the way I feel and think for years and years to come? I can only say - thank you, thank you.
Profile Image for Kevin.
277 reviews741 followers
August 20, 2022
Intimate Portraits:

--Continuing my new pile of biographies, this “biomythography” is probably the quickest to review as it’s (so far) the furthest from what I normally read. The author of Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches deserves such explorations.
--More familiar social issues simmered in the background; the 1950s in the US featured McCarthyist purges (Second Red Scare), with activism to free the Rosenbergs intruding in what is mostly a personal bio (of course framed by intersectional relations of gender, race, migration, class, etc., and the messy contradictions of social struggle):
The Rosenbergs’ struggle became synonymous for me with being able to live in this country at all, with being able to survive in hostile surroundings. But my feelings of connection with most of the people I met in progressive circles, were as tenuous as those I had with my co-workers at the Health Center. I could imagine these comrades, Black and white, among whom color and racial differences could be openly examined and talked about, nonetheless one day asking me accusingly, “Are you or have you ever been a member of a homosexual relationship?” For them, being gay was “bourgeois and reactionary,” a reason for suspicion and shunning. Besides, it made you “more susceptible to the FBI.”

--Leaving US for Mexico was a highlight:
It was in Mexico City those first few weeks that I started to break my life-long habit of looking down at my feet as I walked along the street. There was always so much to see, and so many interesting and open faces to read, that I practiced holding my head up as I walked, and the sun felt hot and good on my face. Wherever I went, there were brown faces of every hue meeting mine, and seeing my own color reflected upon the streets in such great numbers was an affirmation for me that was brand-new and very exciting. I had never felt visible before, nor even known I lacked it. […]

It was here in the breathtaking dawns and quick hill-twilights of Cuernavaca that I learned it really is easier to be quiet in the woods. One morning I came down the hill toward the square at dawn to catch my ride to the District. The birds suddenly cut loose all around me in the unbelievable sweet warm air. I had never heard anything so beautiful and unexpected before. I felt shaken by the waves of song. For the first time in my life, I had an insight into what poetry could be. I could use words to recreate that feeling, rather than to create a dream, which was what so much of my writing had been before.

--Most details went to craft intimate portraits of women and relationships:
Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from meso different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognize her. And in that growing, we came to separation, that place where work begins. Another meeting. […]

Zami. A Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers.

[…] Once home was a long way off, a place I had never been to but knew out of my mother’s mouth. I only discovered its latitudes when Carriacou was no longer my home.

There it is said that the desire to lie with other women is a drive from the mother’s blood.
Profile Image for Sasha.
237 reviews17 followers
July 29, 2020
This was my second read of this book and I had forgotten so much from when I first read it like 4 or 5 years ago so it was all still very fresh! Homoerotic, homosocial, homosexual I love it!!! You can tell from her prose that she's a poet, her writing is just delicious. I loved reading about her experience as a young, Black lesbian in the 50s. Cannot wait to read everything else she's ever written. Crucial item on the lesbian required reading list!

“Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from me-- so different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognize her. And in that growing, we came to separation, that place where work begins. Another meeting.” fuck!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Danika at The Lesbrary.
522 reviews1,283 followers
July 28, 2020
I don't really feel qualified to review Audre Lorde's work, but here's my best attempt.

Some of these passages are still depressingly timely: "Once we talked about how Black women had been committed without choice to waging our campaigns in the enemies' strongholds, too much and too often, and how our psychic landscapes had been plundered and wearied by those repeated battles and campaigns."
Profile Image for rie.
151 reviews29 followers
March 27, 2023
you don’t know how much it pains me to say that i just did not enjoy this book all that much especially as a black lesbian who jumps at any chance at ready about black lesbians.

i don’t know why but i felt so disconnected and bored with the book that at some point it became a genuine chore to read and put me in a reading slump. i felt like there was a hole missing in this story and i couldn’t ignore it. the prose was beautiful though and i did enjoy the last few chapters. unfortunately, this did not give what i thought it would’ve gave.
Profile Image for Kassie.
37 reviews18 followers
August 8, 2020
One of the most important books I’ve ever read. Being a Black queer woman raised in a West Indian household, I found myself nodding at nearly every page. Audre Lorde was truly a gift to the literary world and I feel so honored to be reading her words decades later.

One of my favorite quotes: “In a paradoxical sense, once I accepted my position as different from the larger society as well as from any single sub-society - Black or gay - I felt I didn't have to try so hard. To be accepted. To look femme. To be straight. To look straight. To be proper. To look "nice.” To be liked. To be loved. To be approved. What I didn't realize was how much harder I had to try merely to stay alive, or rather, to stay human. How much stronger a person I became in that trying.” ...Omg what a WORD.

It’s also wild how much has (and has not) changed in gay culture since the 50s! Reading Zami just made me want to read absolutely everything from her ever. What a gift.
Profile Image for J.
730 reviews437 followers
August 21, 2021
I think I'm both the wrong audience and arguably, the wrong generation to really dig this.

Audre Lorde was an openly queer black woman writing at a time when belonging to both categories made you an outsider's outsider (hey! it still does in many places).

The best parts of this are early on, when she describes her profoundly sheltered upbringing as the daughter of strict Caribbean parents in New York. It's an eye-opening account of how a black family navigated the brutal realities of segregation, and the enormous, unspoken emotional trauma and baggage that came with it.

Lorde's real goal in this book however, is less to explicate the socio-political turmoil of her youth, and rather to examine the various emotional bonds she forms with other women, lesbian or otherwise, around her. Zami is a pensive story of how a marginalized woman learns to thrive and build community. The sheer inwardness of Lorde's focus makes it a work of intensely personal emotional reflection, more than a conventional memoir per se (hence her decision to call this a 'mythobiography'). The real audience for Zami, I suspect, is Lorde herself. Which is completely fair.

The dominant impression I get from this is similar to what I've gotten from Susan Sontag's memoirs: that this is a person whose sheer emotional maturity and awareness would make many people 3-4 times her age feel juvenile. Traveling alone to Mexico when you're barely 20 and ending up in an affair with an expat journalist whose pushing 50? Like...Jesus...

As a white gay man who was profoundly closeted well into his 20s, and who grew up in the early years of the 21st century, there's a massive demographic and temporal distance that separates me from Audre Lorde's experiences. And the differences in economic dynamics of the America she grew up in versus today is so stark, it took me out of the book at times.

A woman in her late teens/early 20s being able to afford a one bedroom apartment in a major eastern city while earning a single working-class income (and being able to attend college for free), without being saddled with crippling debt, is a set of lived experiences that is literally unthinkable in the America of 2021.

Ultimately, and surely without intending it, Zami is a tacit chronicle of how far American economic prosperity has diminished since Audre Lorde's youth and our own times. While many structural things have not changed one bit, enough distance separates our moment from Lorde's youth to make a lot of this feel, at least to me, alas, unrecognizable.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,132 reviews1,389 followers
May 14, 2020
Sadly I didn't love this as much as I thought I would, although parts of it I did love and there is some stunningly beautiful writing. Especially in the first half I had trouble emotionally connecting with the character Audre--I'm not sure if that was my state of mind or the writing style. I also wanted to know more about certain parts of Lorde's life (poetry, libraries) and less about her sex life (haha no judgment if your preferences are the other way around).

I was disappointed to see her label butch femme culture as inherently oppressive role playing and rolled my eyes at her statement saying she could tell who is a lesbian because she's never attracted to straight women. I can understand her having those thoughts at that time in her life, but it felt weird to have them presented uncritically by Lorde decades later.

I can absolutely see how this is a queer classic and a Black lesbian classic specifically (meaning this book isn't for me anyway) but this unfortunately didn't always translate to an enjoyable reading experience for me. Still, I'm glad I read it. My favourite section was when she was in Mexico. I loved her descriptions of the place and culture!
Profile Image for Alissa.
192 reviews7 followers
December 29, 2014
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 of this century and the way the structures mirrored the greater social structures of the time (and don't they always?). Revolutionary, even now and maybe especially now.
Profile Image for Stephanie Spines.
121 reviews74 followers
December 1, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Vincent Scarpa.
566 reviews154 followers
November 2, 2011
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 she thinks it is, and I couldn't see a justification for about 50% of the excessive details of her minutiae. As the great Joy Behar says, "Who cares?"
January 10, 2023
It was such a beautifully written book and, as a reader, you were invited into the intimate space of Audre Lorde’s experiences and thoughts. She is becoming one of my favourite authors and reading this book allowed context to her poems as well! Really recommend it🥰
Profile Image for Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm).
672 reviews204 followers
April 2, 2021
“Each one of us had been starved for love for so long that we wanted to believe that love, once found, was all-powerful. We wanted to believe that it could give word to my inchoate pain and rages; that it could enable them to face the world and get a job; that it could free our writings, cure racism, end homophobia and adolescent acne.”

I am not going to lie and say that this was a perfect read for me, even though I really wish I could do that as I love Lorde. It's stylized as a biomythography—a combination of history, myth, and biography so a hybrid genre. While it is marketed as fiction, it quite clearly occupies the territory of memoir/autofiction. The book is very chronological, beginning from her early childhood to middle-age in a steady progression, exhaustively detailed. It was a bit too autobiographical for me, a genre I have never enjoyed. So I struggled to sustain interest and it isn't a work I can call a gripping page-turner. That being said, it also isn't boring or bad in case my review so far has been suggesting it. Lorde is articulate & incisive, her thinking sword-sharp; I could quote her without end.

"Zami" refers to "women who work together as friends and lovers", a term originating in Carriacou, a Grenadine island in the Caribbean, and the birthplace of Lorde's mother. The phrase encapsulates the book in its entirety, an ambitious project to chart the solidarity between the women in Lorde's life be it her mother, her sisters, childhood pals, friends from college, work colleagues, and lovers. An acute intersectional exploration of the female body and its desires, how women navigate the wide world and define themselves, it is mainly a book about love and its iterations, of making connections.
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