Audrey Geraldine Lorde was born on February 18, 1934, in New York City, the third child of Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde and Frederick Byron Lorde. Her parents had immigrated to the United States from Grenada ten years previously. After the births of his three daughters, Lorde’s father attended real estate school and began to manage small rooming houses in Harlem. Lorde later remembered how consistently her parents shared responsibility for the family.
Lorde was an inarticulate child who did not begin to speak until she was approximately five years old. At that time, she was charmed out of a tantrum in a library by a librarian who read several storybooks to her. The young Audrey then began to interact with the world, learning to read, then to speak, and then to write. As she was growing up, Lorde communicated through poetry, responding to questions or comments with poems she had memorized. When she was twelve or thirteen, she began to write her own poetry to express feelings that were not reflected in what she had been reading. Initially, Lorde did not write down her poems; rather, she preferred to memorize them.
Even as a child, Lorde exhibited independence in her approach to life. For example, as she recounts in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982), when she was first learning to print her name, Lorde disliked the tail of the “y” in “Audrey.” Instead, she liked the evenness of “Audre Lorde,” a lifelong preference. Part of her unique view of the world may stem from the fact that Lorde was vision-impaired. When she was three years old, she recalled that “the dazzling world of strange lights and fascinating shapes which I inhabited resolved itself in mundane definitions, and I learned another nature of things as seen through eyeglasses.”
Lorde progressed through grade school...
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