Zami: A New Spelling of My Name Paperback – 22 Jan 1996
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From the Back Cover
“Zami. Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers.”
In this classic autobiography Audre Lorde combines elements of history, biography and myth to tell her own story. A young black girl grows up in thirties Harlem, a teenager lives through Pearl Harbour, a young woman experiences McCarthyism in fifties Greenwich Village. In and out of this lyrical chronicle move the women – mothers, lovers, friends – who are zami: ‘Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon on me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from me – so different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognise her.”
“Lorde is a convincing, powerful writer. Her prose speaks directly to the heart of racism, self-acceptance, mother- and womanhood”
“Listen to this rich and raging voice”
About the Author
A writer, activist, and mother of two, Audre Lorde grew up in 1930s Harlem. She earned a master s degree in library science from Columbia University, received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for poetry, and was New York State s Poet Laureate from 1991 to 1993. She is the author of twelve books, including ZAMI and THE BLACK UNICORN. Lorde died of cancer at the age of fifty-eight in 1992." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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"Zami" begins with the young Audre and her parents, a Black immigrant couple who had settled in New York City. Lorde writes in detail of her cultural heritage from the Caribbean island of Grenada. From her childhood in Harlem to her young adulthood, the book is full of fascinating episodes and poetic language. Lorde's description of using her mother's traditional mortar and pestle to grind spices in the Caribbean style is a particular tour-de-force of sensuous language.
Lorde describes the roots of her life as a poet. She also vividly recalls what it was like to be a young Black lesbian in the 1950s. This particular aspect of "Zami" gives the book a special historical value. Lorde's narrative captures many of the cultural and political particulars of that era.
Audre Lorde attained a distinguished literary reputation as both a poet and essayist. But serious readers of Lorde must not miss her extraordinary "biomythography." This is an essential American life story which ranks up there with those of Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Jacobs, Malcolm X, and other important figures. Whether you're interested in the Caribbean-American experience, African-American literature, lesbian studies, or mid-20th century United States history, you will want to explore "Zami."
In this book Audre Lorde writes, "Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me." If you read "Zami," Lorde just might leave a lasting print upon you.
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.
Beautifully told, fascinating to read, I highly recommend this book.
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