Zami A New Spelling Of My Name Summary

Audre Lorde

Zami A New Spelling Of My Name

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Zami A New Spelling Of My Name Summary

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Zami, A New Spelling of My Name (1984) is an autobiography written by the famous African American poet Audre Lorde. Lorde combines her life with history and mythology to enhance her own story. Though the autobiography covers many experiences, Lorde emphasizes how the women in her life influenced her and that she owes much of her strength to them. Lorde grew up in an ambiguous time when her race, gender, and sexuality were looked down upon and thought of as inferior, and her autobiography explores her struggles with American society.

Lorde grows up a child of West Indian parents in Harlem, New York City in the 1930s and 1940s. She is the youngest of three girls, but is not very close with her elder sisters. Lorde often feels estranged from her family, and feels this even more when she is diagnosed as legally blind. Lorde is further alienated from her family as she is punished harshly any time she misbehaves. She does not speak until she turns four, when she utters her desire to read. Soon, reading and writing become her talents.

Lorde has a difficult childhood, and she encounters extensive racism in the world around her. Lorde lauds her mother for the way she explains and deals with racism directed at her and her children. When people spit at them, her mother disparages those people for being low class and spitting into the wind. Lorde also experiences racism on a family trip, when Jim Crow laws prevent her from eating ice cream at a counter during a visit to Washington D.C. Also, the family’s landlord hangs himself for having to rent to an African American family.

Once Lorde is in high school, she grows into herself. She becomes friends at school with a group of non-black girls who call themselves “The Branded.” They consider themselves outcasts, but Lorde is ultimately elected as editor of the school’s literary magazine. By this point, Lorde has begun to write poetry and her talent has been recognized at school. Once Lorde graduates from high school, she decides to leave home. Ending contact with her family, Lorde moves in with friends of her high school friend Jean.

Lorde begins going out with a white boy named Peter. He ultimately breaks her heart, abandoning her on New Year’s Eve. Unbeknownst to Peter, Lorde is pregnant. She decides to have an abortion. Lorde begins attending Hunter College in New York City, but is unhappy there. She decides to move to Connecticut, where she will try to find a job. There, she works in a factory and finds the working conditions atrocious. While in Connecticut, she falls in love with a woman named Ginger, and they have a brief relationship.

Lorde’s father passes away, so she decides to move back to New York City. She begins a relationship with a woman named Bea. Lorde believes she unjustly broke Bea’s heart, and reflects on how she does not understand why. Soon, after saving some money, Lorde leaves New York City, and Bea, for Mexico. It is the 1950s and Lorde is flabbergasted and appalled at the new McCarthy laws. In Mexico, Lorde returns to school and works as a secretary. She also meets a woman named Eudora, who becomes not only her lover, but also a mentor.

Lorde meets many independent women in Mexico, but Eudora teaches her the most. Eudora fled the United States because of its patriarchal, racist, and puritanical society. Lorde learns how paralyzing American society can be, especially for her. Despite these realizations, Lorde decides to return once again to New York City. But this time, she decides to live in Greenwich Village, which at the time had become a haven for the disenfranchised. Lorde explores and frequents the lesbian bars in the area.

Lorde begins a serious relationship with a white woman named Muriel and they attempt to build a home and a life together. Muriel has psychological difficulties, as she is schizophrenic. Lorde begins to come into herself, but Muriel feels threatened. Lorde is enjoying school and sees a therapist. She begins to see herself as an intellectual woman, and that her skills are only enhanced by her sensuality and artistic nature. Muriel ultimately cheats on Lorde with a woman named Lynn, who has moved in with them. Muriel and Lynn move out, taking Muriel and Lorde’s savings with them.

Although Lorde is grieving her lost relationship, she moves forward. She publishes her poetry, and ultimately meets another woman. Lorde had met her before, when she went by Kitty, and was dainty and feminine. Now, Kitty has turned into the mythic and erotic Afrekete. Lorde’s relationship with Afrekete is the zenith to Lorde’s growth, and Lorde declares that Afrekete will always be important to her and a part of her. Afrekete ultimately leaves Lorde for Atlanta, where her child is.

Lorde ends her autobiography with a reflection on what the women in her life have taught her and how they have influenced her, especially her mother. She believes her life is changeable and an affront to myths regarding any part of her: she is her own myth and entity.