“One oppression does not justify another.” Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
Writer Audre Lorde identified herself as an outsider. Black, feminist, lesbian and angry, she demanded space at the table for those who were marginalized by society. The daughter of West Indian immigrants she found her voice first through poetry and then in essays and novels. A victim of breast and liver cancer, (recorded in The Cancer Journals 1995) which took her life at the age of 58, she was particularly concerned with the legacy each individual leaves behind. She saw her own legacy as being made up of her poetry, her children, and her own existence. The following excerpt is from her autobiographical novel or “biomythography” Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.
…I lay spread-eagled on the floor of the Children’s Room like a furious little brown toad, screaming bloody murder and embarrassing my mother to death…Suddenly, I looked up, and there was a library lady standing over me. My mother’s hands had dropped to her sides. From the floor where I was lying, Mrs. Baker seemed like yet another mile-high woman about to do me in. She had immense, light, hooded eyes and a very quiet voice that said, not damnation for my noise, but “Would you like to hear a story, little girl?”
Part of my fury was that I had not been allowed to go to that secret feast called story hour since I was too young, and here was this strange lady offering me my own story. I didn’t dare look at my mother, half-afraid she might say no, I was too bad for stories. Still bewildered by this sudden change of events, I climbed up on the stool which Mrs. Baker pulled over for me, and I gave her my full attention. This was a new experience for me and I was insatiably curious.
Mrs. Baker read me Madeline and Horton Hatches and Egg, both of which rhymed and which had lovely pictures which I could see from behind my newly acquired eyeglasses, fastened around the back of my rambunctious head by a black elastic band running from earpiece to earpiece. She also read me another storybook about a bear named Herbert who ate up an entire family, one by one, starting with the parents. By the time she finished that one, I was sold on reading for the rest of my life.
What sold you on reading?
3 Replies to “Audre Lorde on Sold on Reading”
I’m a huge Audre Lorde fan. One of the chapters of my dissertation was supposed to be on her, and it never got written when I discovered I could graduate without it . . . . I love Zami.
She was a woman who wasn’t afraid to speak out. We need more such women everywhere.
Yes, she was really special.