Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

by

Author – Audre Lorde

Title – Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

Genre – Women’s Lives & Relationships, GLBTQ

Publication Date – 1982

Number of Pages – 256

Geographical Setting – New York City

Time Period – 1950s

Series – N/A

Plot Summary – Renowned poet Audre Lorde portrays her life and loves in this self-proclaimed ‘biomythography.’ Lorde’s book gives a firsthand account of what it means to be a black lesbian in the 1950s.  Enlightening, honest, and downright depressing at times, Zami tells the story of Lorde’s childhood and her less-than-graceful transition into adulthood, all the while attempting to define herself in her own terms.  Using her personal life experiences, Lorde provides the reader with a heartfelt portrayal of what a woman must deal with when battling prejudices against three identities which define her, being African American during a time of rampant racism, being a woman during a time of sexism and strict gender roles, and being a lesbian during a time in which the identity was hardly recognized yet certainly ostracized.

Subject Headings – Gay & Lesbian ; Autobiographical Fiction; Lesbian Fiction; Feminist Theory; Women’s Studies; Coming of Age; New York City; Self Discovery

Appeal – Articulate; Thought Provoking; Powerful; Poetic; Descriptive; Emotional; Honest; Lyrical; Fast-Paced; Introspective; Entertaining; Romantic

3 Appeal Terms That Best Describe the Book – Emotional; Powerful; Honest

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works –

Back Then: Two Lives in 1950’s New York (Anne Bernays): The two authors each give their account of coming to age in New York City during a time of various social revolutions, McCarthyism, and the Cold War.  Readers who enjoyed the historical and geographical aspects of Zami may enjoy this different perspective of growing up in New York City.

Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s (Henry Hampton): This book serves as an oral history of the Civil Rights Movement, beginning in 1954.  Readers who wish to know more about race relations in the 1950s may enjoy this historical work.

Full Frontal Feminism:  A Young Women’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters (by Jessica Valenti): Serving as a comprehensive overview of feminism and feminist issues, this book discusses health, reproductive rights, violence, and education from a feminist perspective.  Readers who enjoyed the feminist aspect of Zami and wish to have a better understanding of feminism and its roots will likely enjoy this book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works –

Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual African American Fiction (Various Authors): This book is a collection of fiction authored by African American lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.  Ranging from the Harlem Renaissance to the gay liberation movements, this is a comprehensive compilation of 20th century GLBTQ literature.  Readers who wish to learn more about homosexuality within African American culture would likely enjoy this read.

The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison): A classic coming of age story, this novel deals with a young African American girl’s obsession with attaining white standards of beauty.  Raising questions of race, class, and gender, this novel would interest readers who wish for another story of an African American attempting to grow up in a ‘white’ world.

The Beautiful Room is Empty (Edmund White): This novel is about a young gay man attempting to come to terms with his homosexuality during two very different eras: first in the conservative and restrained 1950s and later in the open and experimental 1960s.  Readers interested in another novel portraying the various struggles homosexuals faced in the 1950s and 60s may enjoy this book.

Name: Katie Midgley

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