In "Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography," Audre Lorde writes that "[e]very woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me." Thus, "Zami" serves as a window into Lorde's experiences with other women-especially her mother-who informed and shaped her life from childhood into adulthood within the context of romantic links and friendships, especially during turbulent and conflicting periods in American history. For example, Lorde describes a difficult childhood at school and at home during the poverty ridden 1930s. Especially revealing about this moment in time is Lorde's fascination with her mother's strength and courage amidst racial discrimination-which, according to Lorde, went unnamed. As a result, she grew up in a world where difference was much more assumed rather than defined and interrogated.
Consequently, this colored Lorde's world later as she formed special bonds with other women, which she termed "The Branded," a group of Lorde's "sisterhood of rebels," who used difference as a bond to challenge the status quo. This form of difference became pronounced, in addition to racial and gender difference, when sexuality became a threat during an intense anti-communist hysteria in the 1950s, which equated homosexuality with communist affiliation. In sum; to be black, female and queer in white McCarthy Amerika was a triple threat from which loneliness would emerge as a central factor plaguing Lorde's life.
However, Lorde's romantic links and friendships with other women would shape her survival and leave an everlasting legacy for later generations of lesbian women, especially black lesbian women. Tragically, some of Lorde's experiences with love and friendships were shattered by loss and mourning. Nevertheless, the collected instances of intimacy with other women shaped her life as a queer woman of color defining "Zami," a term specifying women working in unison as lovers and/or friends.
Lorde meticulously unfolds her narrative by using imagery and symbols as a way from which to tell her life story on an intimate level. The choice of words and images are compelling. For example, her trip to Mexico is described so vividly that I almost feel as I am there. Her description of New York gave me a sense of what life was like during a poverty ridden period in an urban setting. The description of clothes, faces, and bodies-especially within an erotic context-are remarkable. In sum, Lorde was a poet genius in her prose alongside her poetry.
"Zami" is an excellent read for courses in Women's Studies, Women's History, Women's Autobiography, African American Studies, Queer Studies, Lesbian and Gay Studies, and ethnic studies.