Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

by Audre Lorde

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Zami: A New Spelling of My Name Characters

The main characters in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name include Audre Lorde, Linda Lorde, and Muriel.

  • Audre Lorde is a Black American lesbian poet and the author of Zami, in which she describes her development from an isolated child into a confident artist and individual.
  • Linda Lorde is Audre Lorde’s mother, who emigrated to New York from Carriacou and with whom Lorde has a difficult relationship.
  • Muriel is a fellow poet who struggles with mental illness and with whom Lorde falls in love, remaining with her for two years.


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Last Updated on December 15, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1306

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde is the author, narrator, and protagonist. She is a Black lesbian poet who, as a child, is legally blind and feels as isolated as all these categories would suggest her to be. Audre is always an outsider, and the book tells the story of her progressing from a lonely child, with an emotionally distant family and no friends, to a confident artist who uses the trauma of her life in her work. Audre has a tumultuous life in terms of work, study, and, particularly, relationships with other women, in which she experiences frequent extremes of joy and pain.

Linda Lorde

Linda Lorde is Audre’s mother, a strong, dignified, resilient woman who works hard and is devoted to her family. Despite her care in bringing up her children, Linda has a strained relationship with Audre, and they have little contact after Audre leaves home. This is largely because Linda is a harsh disciplinarian who does not understand her daughter and forces her to conform to what she believes a good daughter ought to be. Linda’s stubborn character is shaped by the hard life she leads, but there are times, particularly when she is beside the sea, when she becomes nostalgic and thoughtful, losing herself in dreams of her childhood in Carriacou.

Byron Lorde

Byron Lorde is a quiet, hardworking man who does not spend much time with his children. He is unusual for a man of his time in treating his wife, Linda, as an equal partner in his marriage, always consulting her before taking any action. Like Linda, he ignores the racism around him as much as he can.

Phyllis Lorde

Phyllis is the eldest of the three Lorde sisters. She is more placid than Helen and tries to make peace in the family, but she generally ignores Audre.

Helen Lorde

Helen is very close to Phyllis and generally finds Audre annoying, refusing to allow her to join in their storytelling and other shared activities. Though both her elder sisters are cold and distant toward Audre, Helen is the more actively hostile of the two.

Mrs. Augusta Baker

Mrs. Baker is the kindly librarian who teaches Audre to read and inculcates in her a passion for books, despite her limited ability to see.

Sister Mary of Perpetual Help

Sister Mary is a large white woman who is a nun, a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, whom the author later realizes can only have been about eighteen. She is Audre’s first grade teacher and a stern disciplinarian who beats Audre and makes her wear a dunce’s cap.

The Comic Book Storekeeper

The comic book storekeeper is a fat man who abuses Audre, running his hands over her body as he lifts her up to look at the comic books. He only does this when her sisters are some distance away.

Sister Blanche

Sister Blanche is a strict teacher with a hostile attitude to Audre and strong racial prejudices. She is one of the Sisters of Charity at St. Catherine’s School and tells Audre that it is her Christian duty to inform her that Black people smell different from white people.

Monsignor John J. Brady

Father Brady is a parish priest and the head of St. Catherine’s School. He is a racist and a child molester, though he only abuses the white girls, putting his hands inside their uniforms as they sit in his lap.

Ann Archdeacon

Ann Archdeacon is a pretty white classmate of Audre’s. Audre dislikes her because she is smug and self-satisfied, the teacher’s favorite, even though Audre’s marks are better. Ann is a target for Father Brady’s abuse, though Audre did not see her as a victim at the time.

Mrs. Flouton

Mrs. Flouton is the condescending but well-meaning school guidance counselor, who believes that she can solve the Lorde family’s problems by talking to Audre’s mother. Instead, she makes matters worse, deepening the rift between mother and daughter.

Gennie Thompson

Gennie is Audre’s first close friend and the first person she ever loves. She comes from a more liberal background than Audre and leads her into rebellious behavior. Beneath her exuberance, she is deeply troubled and given to suicidal thoughts. She threatens to kill herself if she is not allowed to move in with her father, then finds herself trapped in an abusive situation and actually does kill herself by taking rat poison.

Louisa Thompson

Louisa is Gennie’s mother. She is young and pretty and gives her daughter much more freedom than Audre is permitted.

Phillip Thompson

Phillip Thompson is Louisa’s estranged husband, who reenters her life and decides to form a relationship with his daughter, Gennie, whom he has never met before. He is witty and charming but bitter and abusive by nature.


Peter is Audre’s first and only boyfriend. She says very little about him, except that their sexual relationship was awkward. They soon separate, after which Audre discovers that she is pregnant.


Ginger is Audre’s first female lover. She is kindly and generous, enjoying their affair without serious commitment. Ginger has been married and seems to prefer women but takes relationships with men more seriously. She remains on good terms with Audre after their relationship is over.


Rhea is Audre’s roommate in the East Village. She is politically progressive but appears embarrassed by Audre’s sexuality and never mentions it directly.


Bea is a wealthy white girl with whom Audre has a brief affair. It soon becomes clear that the relationship will not survive their differences, and Audre breaks it off before going to Mexico. Bea is devastated by this and desperately tries to persuade Audre to change her mind.

Frieda Mathews

Frieda is an American expatriate living in Mexico with her daughter. She welcomes Audre into her community in Cuernavaca and provides friendship and guidance for her when she first arrives in the country.


Eudora is a former journalist from Texas who lives in Cuernavaca, in Mexico. She is forty-eight years old and has led a rich and varied life. However, she is now an alcoholic and maintains hostile relations with the rest of the American expatriate community. She and Audre become lovers, but they have an argument, and Eudora leaves Cuernavaca shortly before Audre leaves the country.


Muriel used to work in the same job as Audre in Stamford before Audre moved there. She has a great deal in common with Audre, including being a fellow poet. Muriel reminds Audre of Gennie, her first love, and the two quickly form a close relationship, which is the most significant of Audre’s life and something she thinks will last forever. However, Muriel is mentally ill, with schizophrenia and very low self-esteem. She is psychologically incapable of looking for work because of her fear of rejection, and the end of her relationship with Audre exacerbates her mental decline.


Lynn is an attractive, confident young woman who briefly lives with Audre and Muriel. The three of them experiment with a triangular relationship, but Lynn feels excluded and leaves, taking their collective savings of ninety dollars with her.


Jill is a high school friend of Audre’s, with whom she has a difficult and volatile relationship. She is untrustworthy and unscrupulous in her relationships, and it is her affair with Muriel that finally causes the two-year relationship between Muriel and Audre to end. Jill quickly disappears, and Audre prophecies that she will return one day to create more havoc.


Afrekete (who abbreviates her name to Kitty) is a beautiful, self-confident Black woman with whom Audre has an affair in the final chapter. Though Afrekete disappears suddenly to join her mother and daughter in Atlanta, Audre feels strengthened by their brief relationship.

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