Lorde was born in New York City to Caribbean immigrants from Grenada, Frederick Byron Lorde (called Byron) and Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde, who settled in Harlem. Nearsighted to the point of being legally blind, and the youngest of three daughters (her sisters named Phyllis and Helen), Lorde grew up hearing her mother's stories about the West Indies. She learned to talk while she learned to read, at the age of four, and her mother taught her to write at around the same time. She wrote her first poem when she was in eighth grade.
Born Audrey Geraldine Lorde, she chose to drop the "y" from her name while still a child, explaining in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, that she was more interested in the artistic symmetry of the "e"-endings in the two side-by-side names "Audre Lorde" than in spelling her name the way her parents had intended.
After graduating from Hunter College High School and experiencing the grief of her best friend Genevieve "Gennie" Thompson's death, Lorde immediately left her parents' home and became estranged from her family. She attended Hunter College from 1954 to 1959 and graduated with a bachelor's degree. While studying library science, Lorde supported herself by working various odd jobs such as factory worker, ghost writer, social worker, X-ray technician, medical clerk, and arts and crafts supervisor, moving out of Harlem to Stamford, Connecticut and beginning to explore her lesbian sexuality.
Audre Lorde was a Caribbean-American writer and civil rights activist. In 1968 Lorde was writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, where she met Frances Clayton, a professor of psychology, who was to be her romantic partner until 1989. From 1977 to 1978 Lorde had a brief affair with the sculptor and painter Mildred Thompson. Their affair ran its course during the time that Thompson lived in Washington, D.C. and was teaching at Howard University.
In 1954, she spent a pivotal year as a student at the National University of Mexico, a period she described as a time of affirmation and renewal: she confirmed her identity on personal and artistic levels as a lesbian and poet. On her return to New York, she attended college, worked as a librarian, continued writing and became an active participant in the gay culture of Greenwich Village. She furthered her education at Columbia University, earning a master's degree in library science in 1961. She also worked during this time as a librarian at Mount Vernon Public Library and married attorney Edwin Rollins; they divorced in 1970 after having two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan. In 1966, Lorde became head librarian at Town School Library in New York City, where she remained until 1968.
In 1968 Lorde was writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, where she met Frances Clayton, a white professor of psychology, who was to be her romantic partner until 1989. From 1977 to 1978 Lorde had a brief affair with the sculptor and painter Mildred Thompson. The two met in Nigeria in 1977 at the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77). Their affair ran its course during the time that Thompson lived in Washington, D.C. and was teaching at Howard University. Lorde died on November 17, 1992, in St. Croix, (where she had been living with Gloria I. Joseph), after a 14-year struggle with breast cancer. She was 58. In her own words, Lorde was a "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet". In an African naming ceremony before her death, she took the name Gambda Adisa, which means "Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known".
Lorde focused her discussion of difference not only on differences between groups of women but between conflicting differences within the individual. "I am defined as other in every group I'm part of", she declared. "The outsider, both strength and weakness. Yet without community there is certainly no liberation, no future, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between me and my oppression." She described herself both as a part of a "continuum of women" and a "concert of voices" within herself.
Her conception of her many layers of selfhood is replicated in the multi-genres of her work. Critic Carmen Birkle wrote: "Her multicultural self is thus reflected in a multicultural text, in multi-genres, in which the individual cultures are no longer separate and autonomous entities but melt into a larger whole without losing their individual importance". Her refusal to be placed in a particular category, whether social or literary, was characteristic of her determination to come across as an individual rather than a stereotype.
Burial: Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea at St, Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Audre Lorde was a self-described "black lesbian feminist warrior poet" who lived in the Village in the fifties. "We knew we were outside the pale", said Lorde, who four decades later would become the poet laureate of New York State, in 1991. "We were dykes. A lot of us were artists. We hated typing. We didn't want straight jobs. We were the fringe. And that was because of the fifties. It was like the gay girls version of the beatniks".
One reason that lesbians and gay men often make great artists may be that being gay and creating art both require similar strenghts: the ability to create an original world of one's own, and a willingness to jettison the conventional wisdom in favor of one's own convictions. Sagarin wrote that "homosexual creativity" is "often freed from conventional thought, with imagination unbound and unfetted - and sponsored by the need for perfection to overcome the doubt of oneself". Notable gay nonconformists who struggled against the fifties tide included poets like Allen Ginsberg, Audre Lorde, John Ashbery, and Frank O'Hara; painters as diverse as Paul Cadmus, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Ellsworth Kelly; the composers Leonard Bernstein, Ned Rorem, John Cage, and Aaron Copland; and playwrights and screenwriters like Gore Vidal, William Inge, Arthur Laurents, Edward Albee, and Tennessee Williams.
The triumphs of the black civil rights movement in the first half of the decade - especially the March on Washington in 1963 and the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 - provided the blueprints for a much broader national liberation, first for women, then for gays and eventually for practically every other oppressed group in America. As Audre Lorde has pointed out, the civil rights movement was "the prototype of every single liberation movement in this country that we are still dealing with". (As early as 1966, a popular black-and-white civil rights lapel button bearing an equal sign had been reproduced by gay activists with a lavender background). --The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America by Charles Kaiser
Audre Lorde, 1987, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1081991)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/2999554.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.