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Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  12,992 ratings  ·  645 reviews
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
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by Crossing Press
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 ·  12,992 ratings  ·  645 reviews


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mark monday
in college, in the late 80s and early 90s, i discovered that i had two aunts. this is one (and this is another). aunt Audre intimidated me at first. she was a stern, moody, melancholy woman who had lived a life of so many ups and downs. but as i got to know her, her innate gentleness became clear. this was a woman with so much empathy and understanding for the people around her. this was a lady who had felt pain in her life and would be able to understand my pain as well. she told me stories of ...more
Zanna
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 fait
...more
Shanna Hullaby
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My new favorite book. Lorde tells all the secrets I was too afraid to tell in language more eloquent than my dreams.
El
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
...more
Aaron
Mar 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Audre Lorde's beatiful autobiography of her child- and early-adulthood. She's been prized for her "sensuality" in writing but this is no chicklit - her account of the lesbian bar scene in 1950's America will fascinate anyone interested in these forgotten pockets of culture. After reading it, what most amazed me about her was her unpretensiousness and her willingness to expose herself completely. Few writers have been so insightful when talking about themselves.
Jonathan
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites


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,
...more
Holly Dunn
Very easy five star rating. This is phenomenal. The language is beautiful and the exploration of her identity as black, female and lesbian is fascinating. Seriously, go and read it. It will make your heart sing.
Nathan
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really wish I could teach this one day, but because I don't live in some sort of fantasy utopia I have to recognize that no PTA would ever leave me unscathed for choosing a book that talks so candidly and so beautifully about homosexuality, abortions, and loving blackness. It's a shame because I know that as a high schooler I would have enjoyed Zami infinitely more than the musty old fodder by dead white men I was assigned.
K
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mehrsa
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Bri
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-soon
Erotic and full of tenderness, pain, determined love, and self-exploration, whatever the cost. More in depth RTC.
Alissa
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: female-writers
I've always felt a real affinity for the poetry of Lorde's writing, and somehow this was the only book of hers I could find at the library. Whoa. Absolutely beautiful, gripping language. The lyricism that transforms sex into love. The beauty of learning about yourself from the joy and pain of relationships. I would read this over and over again, bathe in these words and the honesty and the reality of this.

This is also just a phenomenal cultural document, a portrait of queer life in the middle o
...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 wr
...more
Stephanie Spines
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, own
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.
CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian
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 lab
...more
Alexa
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: woc-16, fab-16
This reads like a wonderful novel, engaging, enthralling, and compelling. I loved reading it! Her deft storytelling about what it meant to be Black, female and gay, to be an outsider in every way, was completely enthralling and yet beautiful in its interwoven political consciousness-raising. Her pain, her love, her glory, her otherness all scream from the page. And then her poetry winds its way cat-like in-between our legs as we are captivated by her life.
Jimmy
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
"We're both going to make it because we're both too tough and crazy not to!" And we held each other and laughed and cried about what we had paid for that toughness, and how hard it was to explain to anyone who didn't already know it that soft and tough had to be one and the same for either to work at all, like our joy and the tears mingling on the one pillow beneath our heads.
Have you played the privilege game? You all stand in a line, and the host asks you to step backwards if you've ever felt
...more
Vincent Scarpa
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
I clearly stand alone in thinking this, and that's fine, but parts of this book were torture for me to get through. Especially in the latter half of the book, wherein Lorde invents 1000 different ways to say she loves a cavalcade of women who, by the end, I truly couldn't tell apart. I can appreciate the craft at work here, and that Lorde has a talent for language and is probably a great poet, but I just couldn't find a way to care about her life. I don't think her perspective is as unique as sh ...more
tom bomp
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Sometimes I found the descriptions of everything around her beautiful, sometimes tedious. Sometimes i appreciated her honesty and frank descriptions of her feelings for other women, sometimes I found them voyeuristic and out of the scope of my understanding.

But ultimately it made me cry a little and when she talks about how much she's looked down upon for being black even past being lesbian it's heartbreaking, even if sometimes it gets obscured by a litany of names I can't connect and descriptio
...more
Jeff
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Audre Lorde coined the term "biomythography" to describe this book, and I didn't get what that meant until I read it. She combines prose, poetry, history, and myth in this ode to the women who shaped her throughout her life. The book is sensually written, and an absolute joy to read. Something about the way it is written left me continually reminding myself it is non-fiction. It is rare to find an autobiography with such a well-structured story and gorgeous writing.
Allison
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Phew. This book is a revolution. I don't regret a lot in life but I regret not reading this sooner in life.
Shimin Mushsharat
Such a powerful book!
Nina
I need to read more books written by women like Audre Lorde. She is so inspirational, and I can’t wait to read some of her poetry.
Susanna Sturgis
Being a feminist bookseller and a huge Audre Lorde fan, I read Zami for the first time as soon as it came out in 1982. Though Lorde was a masterful poet, it was her prose -- particularly Zami and the essays collected in Sister Outsider -- that challenged me most and took up permanent residence in my head. I reread her "biomythography" after Lorde died in 1992 but hadn't opened it since, though it had a permanent place on my bookshelves. Then I picked up a second copy at my town library's annual ...more
Mik
Aug 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody
Shelves: memoirs
Audre Lorde recounts the first half of her life in an amazing blend of her own poetry, popular songs, journal entries, and memories that are startling in their exactness and fairness. Her ability to recount her extreme loneliness and desire for companionship at being Black in gay scenes, gay in Black crowds and female and working class in the U.S. Her amazing sympathy for the women and men whom she loved and hurt/was hurt by is a testament to her desire to create great networks and bridges betwe ...more
Jeanne
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography is Audre Lorde's memoir of her first 25 years – with a longer focus on the time from 15 to 22. Her early life was more accessible (to me), as Lorde more clearly identified here who she was and why she was angry – while also being confused by a confusing world. Why wouldn't it be confusing? Her mother was a powerful presence, yet made reality conform to what she was willing to accept: But it was so typical of my mother when I was young that if she ...more
Alex
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was a completely joyous and very emotive read.

When I finished it, I actually felt my eyes prick with sadness. Sadness that Audre Lorde is no longer with us, sadness that her story is so radically different to what it would be today. There are some parallels with the world of queerness and lesbianism now but the weight of racism, homophobia and misogyny is so heavy that Audre's life story is defined by limitations.

Her descriptive passages, particularly on loving women (with body, and
...more
Crazytourists_books
It felt like there books in one.
The first part, the childhood years, was confusing, good memories, bad memories not enough information. The second part, was like suddenly someone else was the writer, and the third part was like a sociological analysis. I wasn't a big fun
Hannah
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-10-of-2018
I love this book so much
musa b-n
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So good so good so good!!! It's nice to relate to other gay people of color. I love it. I love this book. I love Audre Lorde. It's about her, and her liferacegenderbodybrain. I'm stunned. I love this book.
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Audre Lorde is 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 P ...more

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