Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

by Audre Lorde

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde is an autobiography that follows Lorde's life from childhood to adulthood as she navigates life as a Black lesbian in New York City and Mexico.

Lorde writes that "every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me." The book focuses on her growth as a person but also her relationships with women. In the end, she defines the word "Zami" as "a Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers." It is representative of the themes of the book in many ways.

When Zami's relationship with a woman named Bea sours, she ends things. Bea doesn't take it well, however, and continues to try to see Lorde. This is one of the things that sends Lorde to Mexico instead of continuing to live in New York. Lorde writes,

I was hiding out at Jean and Alf's place, having been warned by an incredulous Rhea that a weeping girl was trying to find me. Rhea ran interference, making excuses to Bea as she went in and out of the apartment to work. Luckily, I had already quit my job at the Health Center, for Bea had gone there first.

Lorde leaves New York with stress and anger on her heels, but that feeling starts to go away by the time she arrives in Mexico and starts to integrate with the community there. She also is able to see the negative aspects of her relationship with Bea when she enters into a relationship with Eudora in Mexico.

Though Eudora eventually disappears, she leaves an imprint on Lorde. The relationship they had makes Lorde more aware of what relationships should be. Once she returns to New York, she reflects on it and how it has affected her relationship with Muriel, her new girlfriend. She writes,

We were reinventing the world together. Muriel opened me to a world of possibilities that felt like a legacy left me by Eudora's sad funny eyes and patient laugh. I had learned from Eudora how to take care of business, be dyke-proud, how to love and live to tell the story, and with flair. Muriel and I were making the lessons become real together.

Throughout the book, Lorde's past relationships help her better navigate her future ones. When she enters her relationship with Afrekete, she is able to fully be herself. Even when it is over, Lorde doesn't write with sorrow or bitterness. She says,

"We had come together like elements erupting into an electric storm, exchanging energy, sharing charge, brief and drenching. Then we parted, passed, reformed, reshaping ourselves the better for the exchange."

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