Queer books you may not have read: Part Two

May 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I hesitated, a little, over including this one. “Inconceivable!”, you might say – “surely Audre Lorde’s Zami is a classic that needs no introduction?”


Well, classic it certainly is – but I’m amazed by the number of LGBTI activists/artists/general people in the UK who haven’t read it. Whether it’s the usual anti-U.S. bias – or the promotion of white voices at the expense of everyone else – or male voices over everyone else – actually, wait, sorry – it’s probably all of those. Not valid excuses, not now, not ever.


So, Lorde’s 1982 ‘biomythography’ Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – “Madivine. Friending. Zami. How Carriacou women love each other is legend in Grenada, and so is their strength and their beauty.”  The childhood, adolescence and adulthood of a fiercely talented poet, academic and activist, chronicled in prose as beautiful, sensual and breath-takingly hard-hitting as her poetry. 1940s, 50s, 60s – New York, Connecticut, Mexico – segregation, McCarthyism, civil rights, gay liberation, women’s liberation.



“Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from her – so different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognize her. And in that growing, we came to separation, that place where work begins. Another meeting.”


What Zami felt like, reading it at 17: a hope for the future, a glimpse into what an artist’s life could be like, the support of someone older, wiser, stronger – a template for art that could be both cutting and sincere, knowing, bitter, mocking – but never apathetic and pseudo-cynical.


What Zami feels like, reading at 28: a call for justice movements to celebrate each and every unique part of the people they’re fighting for, an acknowledgement of loss, a hope for love that combines the body and the mind in equal measures, the desire for adventure, the need for self-preservation – a hunger for more, always.


Good for: Burnt-out activists, hopeless causes, struggling artists, anyone feeling trapped and alone.


Bad for: Those who hate memoir (really?), anyone who objects to a little spirituality/mysticism in their lives.


Goes with: Something very strong and very sweet – Vietnamese iced coffee. The burnt smell of hot city pavements. Reading with the taste of your lover still on your tongue.


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