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Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
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GROUP READS > December NON-FICTION selection ZAMI: A NEW SPELLING OF MY NAME

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Alexa (AlexaNC) Many people have raved about this, Audre Lorde's autobiography of her early years.


message 2: by El (new) - rated it 5 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
I have a copy of this at home, so hope to get started on it soon!


Alexa (AlexaNC) This one is still wending its way towards me through the library system - anybody else have any first impressions to share yet?


Candace | 35 comments This was, I'm embarrassed to say, my first exposure to Audre Lorde. Overall I'm glad that I read it; what a difference her life seems to have been from some of the other works of this time from more mainstream feminists! She was so matter-of-fact about her life - beatings from her mother, rape, bullying at school and during her career, etc.- that I felt sad for her while at the same time wondering how she could speak of these things so. Then, however, she would spend what I felt was an unnecessary amount of time describing things in a way that I call "earthy feminism." I have never identified with feminists who describe the female body in terms of flowers, so I skimmed those bits. Sometimes I felt like she used so many adjectives that a passage seemed trite. So very informative and I am glad that I have finally read something by Lorde, but I do not think I'll be seeking out anything else by her.


Alexa (AlexaNC) The holiday season is consuming my life, and I'm afraid I probably won't get to this until January - but I am totally planning on reading it!


message 6: by El (new) - rated it 5 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
I started reading this on the bus this morning. I think I'm going to enjoy (and by "enjoy", I mean I will appreciate her story) this.

I'm fascinated by her concept of "biomythography" - "...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.’’ She coined the word, but now I wonder if there are other books/authors who have written anything along these lines. I feel like Zora Neale Hurston might also fall into this category, but it's been such a long time since I've read Hurston, so maybe my memory is faulty.

Anyone have any other suggestions? I wonder if Jeanette Winterson would also fit here - thinking primarily of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit that we read recently. Hm.


This is my first main exposure to Lorde as well, Candace, though I'm fairly certain I had to read some of her poetry in college (I went to a women's college, so I'm sure it was probably required at least once). But as far as her other writing, this is my first exposure and I'm already intrigued by her writing. I'm not very far along yet, but I'm especially curious to see how I'll feel in regards to what you've called "earthy feminism". I've never given that a whole lot of thought before, but now it will be fresh on my mind.


Candace | 35 comments El wrote: "I started reading this on the bus this morning. I think I'm going to enjoy (and by "enjoy", I mean I will appreciate her story) this.

I'm fascinated by her concept of "biomythography" - "...the el..."


I'm excited to hear what you think! The possibility of me being dismissive of the book overall was there, but I stuck with it and took from it what I wanted.


message 8: by El (new) - rated it 5 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
I just finished reading Zami , and I am so glad I read it. I'm working on writing my actual review right now, so this is sort of a staging area for a few of my thoughts - she covers so much ground here (racism, sexism, current events), and while I'm not a West Indian woman, nor a lesbian, nor was I alive during era of McCarthyism or the attack on Pearl Harbor... I could still relate to such a large portion of what Lorde wrote. She knows what it is like to be an outsider, and speaks to outsiders in her autobiography. I feel there's a sort of universality to that alone.

And just that while we may be individuals, we're still all shaped by our environments, the company we keep, and what happens in our lives. I think that's where "biomythography" comes from. There's no way to write one's own story without telling the stories of others as well.


Alexa (AlexaNC) I'm just starting this now - it's such a fun read! I'm finding that it reads just like a novel and I'm totally caught up in it and completely enjoying myself!


Alexa (AlexaNC) There is so much truth in this! I'm loving it! One of my favorite bits:

"At home, it all seemed very simple and very sad to me. If my parents loved me I wouldn't annoy them so much. Since they didn't love me they deserved to be annoyed as much as possible within the bounds of my own self-preservation. Sometimes when my mother was not screaming at me, I caught her observing me with frightened and painful eyes. But my heart ached and ached for something I could not name."

Oh does that sum up adolescence for me!


Alexa (AlexaNC) El, I'm interested in your thoughts on the word "biomythography." Nowhere (that I saw) does she describe what she means by this word. She does discuss myths here and there, but they all feel completely part of the "truth" of the biography, cultural references and her contemporaneous writings. While I thought this read like a novel it all felt completely accurate to her life at the time as well.

I loved this! I thought her reflections on what it meant to be an outsider at all times and in all groups were really powerful.


message 12: by El (new) - rated it 5 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
Sorry, Alexa, I saw your comment the other day and meant to return to it, and of course forgot. What I actually meant to do when I posted that bit about biomythography was link where I found that quote. I had looked the word up online and found that definition in an article (which was then attributed to discussion in a different book).

So this is where I read that particular definition, which the author of the article says is from Audre Lorde in Black Women Writers at Work (ed Claudia Tate).

I like the explanation so much, I need to check out that entire book to see what other gems it may contain.

So it seems Lorde's definition came out through interviews and discussions, rather than within the book itself. Because you're right, I don't remember it coming up specifically in the book Zami... though maybe in the introduction in my edition it did.


Alexa (AlexaNC) It's a great word, and I would think it would totally apply to Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which I thought did a beautiful job of moving between reality and imagination. I actually didn't see all that much of that here. She includes a few of her writing pieces, but they always seemed so appropriate to the current conversation that it didn't really feel at all mythic to me. Interesting to think that she invented the term and that then Jeanette Winterson ran with it!


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