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Zami Summary

In Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde describes her life and shows how she became a writer and a revolutionary who fought against being defined by others.

Lorde begins by posing a question: "To whom do I owe the woman I've become?" She recognizes that she is at least partially a result of her experiences and the encounters she's had with people. Some of the people are those whose names she never knew, like a woman in an airport with bruises on her face. Others are people she knew better but never spoke to, like DeLois who lived near her and seemed to live on her own terms.

Zami, the protagonist, discusses the history of her parents. They came to America in 1924 when they were in their twenties and had been married for only a year. They moved to New York City, where she grew up. She leaves to go to college, dates a boy, and has an abortion. She found her life in America after she returned home from school somewhat stifling because she had difficulty meeting other lesbians, she was affected by the expectations of people living in NYC, and she was in a toxic relationship with a woman named Bea, so she left. Zami went to Cuernavaca and Mexico City and met a woman named Eudora.

Eudora was an alcoholic, though Zami notes that she never really saw her drink. Sometimes she would disappear for days and Zami wouldn't know where she was. She still loved her, though, and was sad when she came home from a trip and found Eudora had left and moved. She didn't leave her address. Eventually, Zami goes back to New York—even though she intends at the time to eventually return to both Mexico and Eudora.

In New York, Zami falls in love with Muriel. The relationship helps her come into herself; she enrolls in college and decides to see a counselor to try to work herself out. Unfortunately, this affects her relationship in a negative way. As Zami grows into herself, Muriel pulls away and eventually moves out of the apartment they shared. Muriel burns all of her own poetry and journals before she leaves.

Zami has another relationship with a woman named Kitty who also goes by Afrekete. The two women are both fully self-realized and working toward moving away from identities defined by the patriarchy. Afrekete eventually leaves as well, writing a note to explain that she'd gotten a job in Atlanta and was going to spend time with her mother and daughter. Lorde notes that she never saw her again but that "her print remains upon my life with the resonance and power of an emotional tattoo."


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde’s prose masterpiece, examines a young black woman’s coming to terms with her lesbian sexual orientation. An autobiographical novel, Zami has earned a reputation as much for its compelling writing as for its presentation of a coming-of-age story of a black lesbian feminist intent on claiming her identity.

At the age of nineteen, Zami flees New York City, where she was raised by her West Indian parents, for Mexico. There, she falls in love with an older expatriate woman named Eudora, who opens up her sensual life to the younger woman. Through her...

(The entire section is 828 words.)