PDF/EPUB Audre Lorde ´ Sister Outsider Essays and Speeches eBook ´ Sister ´

Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth century literature In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches Lorde takes on sexism racism ageism homophobia and class and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change Her prose is incisive unflinching and lyrical reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hopeThis commemorative edition includes a new foreword by Lorde scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke who celebrates the ways in which Lorde's philosophies resonate than twenty years after they were first published These landmark writings are in Lorde's own words a call to never close our eyes to the terror to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is —A writer activist and mother of two AUDRE LORDE grew up in 1930s Harlem She earned a master's degree in library science from Columbia University received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for poetry and was New York State's Poet Laureate from 1991 to 1993 She is the author of twelve books including Zami A New Spelling of My Name and The Black Unicorn Lorde died of cancer at the age of fifty eight in 1992


10 thoughts on “Sister Outsider Essays and Speeches

  1. says:

    If you care about feminism social justice or making the world a better place in any way at all you must read this book Sister Outsider shook me to my core Audre Lorde's brilliant powerful love filled writing literally brought me to tears in a local Panera Bread In this stunning collection of essays and speeches she addresses the sheer necessity of intersectional feminism and supporting women of color the importance of using our voices to speak up against injustice the horrors inflicted by US imperialism and capitalism and I knew about halfway through reading this book that it would serve as one of my absolute favorite reads and feminist works of all time I marked several passages from each essay so I wish I could share so many of them in this review but for the sake of brevity first an iconic passage about how we must stand in solidarity with everyone who faces oppression not just those who look like us I am a lesbian woman of Color whose children eat regularly because I work in a university If their full bellies make me fail to recognize my commonality with a woman of Color whose children do not eat because she cannot find work or who has no children because her insides are rotted from home abortions and sterilization; if I fail to recognize the lesbian who chooses not to have children the woman who remains closeted because her homophobic community is her only life support the woman who chooses silence instead of another death the woman who is terrified lest my anger trigger the explosion of hers; if I fail to recognize them as other faces of myself then I am contributing not only to each of their oppressions but also to my own and the anger which stands between us then must be used for clarity and mutual empowerment not for evasion by guilt or for further separation I am not free while any woman is unfree even when her shackles are very different from my own And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained Nor is any one of youLet me just tell you some of the glorious feats Lorde accomplishes in this collection She rightfully calls out white women for their racism and upholding of patriarchy black men for their misogyny and homophobia and all of us for the oppression we internalize and project onto others She reclaims female sexuality as a weapon against patriarchy and for self love She centers the experiences of black women including lesbian black women with no apologies Lorde does all of this and with a voice that is wise soulful commanding and kind somehow all at once Her writing acts as both a sword and a salve tearing through layers and layers of racism sexism and discrimination while offering a healing path for us to follow Another passage I love this one about the importance of feeling a trait that is undervalued in a male dominated society For within living structures defined by profit by linear power by institutional dehumanization our feelings were not meant to survive Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes feelings were expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men But women have survived As poets And there are no new pains We have felt them all already We have hidden that fact in the same place where we have hidden our power They surface in our dreams and it is our dreams that point the way to freedom Those dreams are made realizable through our poems that give us the strength and courage to see to speak and to dare For there are no new ideas There are only new ways of making them felt of examining what those ideas feel like being lived on Sunday morning at 7 AM after brunch during wild love making war giving birth mourning our dead while we suffer the old longings battle the old warnings and fears of being silent and impotent and alone while we taste new possibilities and strengths It is a true tragedy that Lorde is not reuired reading for everyone everywhere At the same time I feel so grateful for Lorde's revelatory ideas and her beautiful delivery As a beginning therapist I believe it is of utmost importance to both honor our emotions and change our actions to better our mental health all while working toward social justice Lorde accomplishes all of these things She sits with the dark destructive emotions brought on by experiencing racism and prejudice while celebrating the joyful feelings of black lesbian womanhood and of liberation overall In addition she provides tangible strategies to fight for a better just and loving world I cannot praise this collection enough I will just say that it is one of my favorite books ever and please please read it I will end this review with one uote that exemplifies her penchant for calling us to action How are you practicing what you preach whatever you preach and who exactly is listening? As Malcolm stressed we are not responsible for our oppression but we must be responsible for our own liberation It is not going to be easy but we have what we learned and what we have been given that is useful We have the power those who came before us have given us to move beyond the place they were standing We have the trees and water and sun and our children Malcolm X does not live in the dry texts of his words as we read them; he lives in the energy we generate and use to move along the visions we share with him We are making the future as well as bonding to survive the enormous pressures of the present and that is what it means to be a part of history


  2. says:

    There is something spellbinding about reading this book as though one had stepped into a room where someone was speaking uietly and clearly and a crowd of people were listening intently feeling together in mutual awareness and sympathy It must be because I know so many women have read this book and felt their hearts answer Lorde It must be because she is a poet and creates with words that space within us that bridge where separate senses of being can cross and touchPerhaps the spell of a poet speaking about feminist praxis is in healing a breech in reorienting us away from the false and foolish dichotomy between emotion and thought which in her essays Poetry is not a Luxury and Uses of the Erotic Lorde shows us how to unlearn Feminist work uestions such patriarchal assumptions that make us easier to control by splitting one part of us off and denigrating it calling us hysterical and unbalancedAudre Lorde Black Lesbian feminist mother lover cancer survivor daughter of Grendian immigrants to the USA socialist shows how one struggle is bound up with another I am not free while others are in chains She draws us towards wholeness with ourselves and with each other not in the denial of difference but in the recognition that difference is strengthNotes from a Trip to Russia Lorde's notes from a visit she made in 1976 as an observer of the African Asian Writer's Conference She talks about dreaming Russia before she talks about being there she notes that the socialism she dreams of does not really exist anywhere and she is not uncritical but her account is largely positive She does not experience any individual racial prejudice though people look interestedly and this makes her aware of racism in the USA as the texture of everyday life Her observation is fine grained a vital snapshot highly personal aesthetic emotionally rich acutely political She compares Soviet cities to cities in West Africa She is critical of the conference and the lack of attention to black people in the USA with whom there is no meaningful solidarity expressed Above all she is impressed by the fact that basic needs are met healthcare is free and everyone has enough to eat This compared very favourably to black populations in the USPoetry is not a Luxury I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience not the sterile word play that too often the white fathers distorted the word to mean in order to cover a desperate wish for imagination without insightThe white fathers told us I think therefore I am The Black mother within each of us the poet whispers in our dreams I feel therefore I can be free I got so much from reading this essay slowly word by word Lorde asserts boldly that there are no new ideas only new ways of making them felt We feel our ways towards what we want to build towards change and freedom To me hers is a beautiful and profound expression of the barrenness of rationality without feeling self interrogation and empathy Much is true that we lack words to express bound as we are by a culture and language of white supremacist patriarchy For women then poetry is a vital necessity of our existence because it is the means by which we name the nameless and speak the unheardThe Transformation of Silence into Language and Action Lorde makes a passionate case for not being silent because when we speak we can come together and overcome fears and create change I felt this paragraph especially considering the marginalisation of many women within feminist movement And where the words of women are crying to be heard we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own For instance 'I can't possibly teach Black women's writing their experience is so different from mine' Yet how many years have you spent teaching Plato and Shakespeare and Proust? Or 'she's a lesbian and what would my husband say or my chairman' And all the other endless ways in which we rob ourselves of each otherScratching the Surface Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving Lorde begins by asserting that racism sexism heterosexism and homophobia are forms of human blindness that stem from an inability to recognise the notion of difference as a dynamic human force one that is enriching rather than threatening to the defined self when there are shared goals This idea alone deserves deep thought and endless repetition The essay is about lesbophobia particularly in the Black US community She explains how white supremacist patriarchy functions to manufacture it and why Black woman identified women are not a threat to Black men or to the community in general She talks about accepted practices of love and forms of marriage between women in West African communities which is fascinating The essay may be less urgently needed today but the arguments are fresh and clear and returning to them is fruitful Uses of the Erotic The Erotic as Power This is possibly my favourite feminist essay It's a further development of 'Poetry is Not a Luxury' on the power of feelingAs women we have come to distrust that power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world which values this depth of feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men but which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibilities of it within themselves So women are maintained at a distantinferior position to psychically milked Lorde rehabilitates eros the life force as a vivifying principle for our actionsThe erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which once we have experienced it we know we can aspire Our erotic knowledge empowers us becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our livesIt reuires the matchless elouence and sensitivity of a poet to articulate this radically expanded and renewed idea of the erotic I will read this many times and each time draw a new lesson from itSexism An American Disease in Blackface In this response to an article by Robert Staples in The Black Scholar Lorde addresses anti feminism and sexism in the Black community and the re weaponisation of racism against Black women by Black men with the ongoing complicity of White feministsIn this country Black women traditionally have had compassion for everybody except ourselves We have cared for whites because we had to for pay or survival; we have cared for our children and our fathers and our brothers and our lovers History and popular culture as well as our personal lives are full of tales of Black women who had 'compassion for misguided black men' Our scarred broken battered and dead daughters and sisters are a mute testament to that reality We need to learn to have compassion for ourselves alsoAn Open Letter to Mary Daly Another classic and much shared but evidently still not enough read essay on the failure of white feminists to examine their own racism to divest from white supremacist patriarchal constructions of Black and non European women to actually read the work of women of colour and hear it feel it and respond to it rather than appropriate and plagiarise it At the end she says I felt it was wasted energy to speak to white women about racism because of destructive guilt and defensiveness and because whatever I had to say might better be said by white women to one another at far less emotional cost to the speaker and probably with a better hearing This is not her first or last expression of the wish for white people to teach each other about racism Lorde's words are still needed and once met turned to again and again because the problem will not go away while our education remains silent on structural racism and our culture refuses to mark whitenessMan Child A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response This is a very touching essay about raising boys specifically as a Black woman raising a Black boy and as a Lesbian There are many insights one being that she has to teach her son that women do not exist to do men's emotional labour She sheds light on how parents inadvertantly inculcate in their children the lesson so culturally ingrained that might makes right how family life can be complicit and contributary to a culture of domination and assymetrical power relationshipsAn Interview Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich I have read works that uoted Rich's feminist work and I have one of her poetry books on my TBR but I did not know she had interviewed Lorde She seems to do a good job of drawing her out making space for her to talk about her ways of thinking and working and sources of inspiration Every time Audre speaks the music of her style swells gorgeously across the page Her stories whether of aesthetic experiences teaching or writing are dense with insights The two come into conflict when Audre upbraids Adrienne for asking for 'documentation' for than intuition and Adrienne insists on her position Help me to perceive what you perceive as white women so often plead Audre is patient she explains that 'the one thing I've had to fight with my whole life is preserving my perceptions of how things are doing this in the face of tremendous opposition and cruel judgement Adrienne says that she asks herself what she can do with Lorde's ideas how she can use them which Lorde says is the oft missed 'essential step'The Master's Tools will never Dismantle the Master's House Lorde has done her work to euip us or rather to show us how to euip ourselves with our own tools forged in the recognition of difference and the use and celebration of its fruitful creative potential and in the need and desire to nurture each other Yet academic white American feminists she argues do not reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson In our world divide and conuer must become define and empower Now we hear that it is the task of women of Colour to educate white women in the face of tremendous resistance as to our existence our differences our relative roles in our joint survival This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thoughtAge Race Class and Sex Women Redefining Difference Lorde here expands her lament about the oppressed being expected to educate the oppressor explaining how all of these binaries and hierarchies serve a racist patriarchal capitalism institutionalised rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people She describes the american 'mythical norm' of the thin white male young heterosexual financially secure those of us who stand outside this power often identify one way in which we are different and we assume that to be the primary cause of all oppression forgetting other distortions around difference some of which we ourselves may be practicing By and large within the women's movement today white women focus on their oppression as women and ignore differences of race sexual preference class and age There is a pretence to the homogeneity of experience covered by the word sisterhood that does not in fact existLorde's argument that difference is fruitful and powerful grows out I feel from her arguments in The Uses of the Erotic because 'the erotic cannot be felt secondhand' but it can be shared taught and understood across difference and its affirmative power affirms others rather than struggling for a position from which to dominate them In recognition of each other we can direct the power we each derive from the erotic towards common political goals UICK NB Lorde is not talking about that 'erotic capital' thing This has nothing to do with reinscribing and co opting patriarchal sexual normsThe Uses of Anger Women Responding to Racism Women responding to racism means women responding to anger; the anger of exclusion of unuestioned privilege of racial distortions of silence ill use stereotyping defensiveness misnaming betrayal and cooptation anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strenthening act of clarification Mainstream communication does not want women particularly white women responding to racism It wants racism to be accepted as an immutable given in the fabric of your existence Lorde critiues Consciousness Raising groups which helped white women to articulate their anger against men but not against other women across barriers of difference No tools were developed to deal with other women's anger except to avoid it deflect it or flee from it under a blanket of guilt There can be no collective action when white women evade instead of meeting us face to face beyond objectification and beyond guiltLearning from the 60s Some thoughts on Malcolm X heterosexism and homophobia in the Black community and US foreign policy interventionist imperialistic and social policy anti welfare atomising in the 80sEye to Eye Black Women Hatred and Anger Here Lorde discusses anger and animosity between Black women at great length I never realised how the treatment of Black women by daily and structural manifestations of white supremacist patriarchy came to engender distrust and hate between Black women themselves As she often does Audre draws on histories of African women collaborating with and sharing power with each other supporting and loving each other offering these resources for Black American women She also offers wisdom from the I Ching and from fellow Black women poets She explains how the destruction of self esteem makes Black women devalue each other as well as themselves She decries the dehumanising idea that 'white folks feel Black folks DO'Grenada Revisited An Interim Report This is a witness testimony Lorde of Grenadian parents visited the island before the bloodless New Jewel coup which overthrew a wasteful corrupt US sanctioned regime after the coup during the rule of the People's Revolutionary Government and then after the US invasion of 1983 She is furious because the PRG had improved every aspect of life for the people of Grenada creatively sutainably and independently And the invasion patently unjustified and cynically motivated is a wave of destruction uprooting that progress I've probably read Chomsky's account of the same events but Lorde tells it with personal horror and rageSister Outsider is a profound work and a strong deep root out of which feminist praxis can take nourishment and grow Lorde points out what must be done and tells us how to begin our work together with the power of our own deeply felt truths


  3. says:

    Now wait you've not read this book? Really? Maybe you're just kidding I have come to work on you like a drug or a chisel wrote the late Audre Lorde Her passing created a hollow space in my soul that is now filled again each time I read her prose poetry Just because 'Sister Outsider' is assigned in virtually every women's studies and gender studies 101 class does not mean it is some awful book about soggy liberal bureaucratic multiculturalism Far from it Audre Lorde lived for a radical pedagogy and the transformation of life under the weight of white supremacy patriarchy homophobia and classism and could she write? Hell yeah But never mind me repeating a mantra you've heard so often please get a hold of a copy I keep five copies on hand to give to folks I might meet It might save your life the way it saved mine and I am white male and straightThis book did not influence me it made meps Folks the new edition has a foreword by the indefatigable Cheryl Clarke Clarke has been in the life for the longest paying her dues working at Rutgers forever And her poetry prose is well mandatory pretty much


  4. says:

    I cannot express how much I fell in love with Audre This is genuinely one of my favourite books of all time a claim I haven't laid on a book in uite some time perhaps over a year now? Maybe longerThe extent of the notes I took during reading is immense Her pages are plastered with sticky tabs and margin crawling Everything about her writing is majestic and phenomenally intelligent I've come out of this book feeling like I spent the past few days in silence holding hands with a poet as she spoke to me across a table from me Just now she gave my hands a sueeze got up and walked from the room leaving me alone I don't feel the same and I already miss her What the most phenomenal woman to have spent the past few days with I'll treasure them and I'll carry on reading and listening


  5. says:

    Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change To those women here who fear the anger of women of Color than their own unscrutinized racist attitudes I ask Is the anger of women of Color threatening than the woman hatred that tinges all aspects of our lives? My latest favorite type of Tumblr blog is a variation on the theme of 'thisisnot' wherein a slew of responses to angry white tears let me know I'm on the right track You see I am in need of practice when it comes to differentiating the emotions of violation and annoyance the situations of prejudice and hegemony the fundamental difference between the reactions evoked by the 'ItAintRape' tag and when people of color call my group 'crackers' and 'mayo' Neither religion nor common sense gives me what is reuired to develop my feminism beyond its white feminism mainstream of white supremacism and if I am at times uncomfortable well I know the oppression begotten by believing my safe spaces should be able to intersect completely and utterly with everyone else's for what is privilege if not speaking and knowing beyond a doubt you will be heard? There is also the matter that as long as I have been at this I have not yet found a discomfort comparable to my episodes of major depressive disorder In a word priorities with no small amount of self awareness to make the effort sustainable When an academic woman says “I can’t afford it” she may mean she is making a choice about how to spend her available money But when a woman on welfare says “I can’t afford it” she means she is surviving on an amount of money that was barely subsistence in 1972 and she often does not have enough to eat Yet the National Women’s Studies Association here in 1981 holds a conference in which it commits itself to responding to racism yet refuses to waive the registration fee for poor women and women of Color who wished to present and conducted workshops This has made it impossible for many women of Color — for instance Wilmette Brown of Black women for Wages for Housework — to participate in this conference Is this to be merely another case of the academy discussing life within the closed circuits of the academy? There is a living here that is not for me save for when I wish to inform myself as inexorably as possible without invading safe spaces with the trauma induced by my white skin the submission inculcated by my military industrial complexion What was once solely a defect of social anxiety has become a boon in the realms of intersectionality as my offline personality takes in the development of my online persona and parses out what it is dehumanizing from what is merely guilt Indeed offline existence has almost become a respite so used am I to anger directed at all that I represent for every justifiable reason Compared to the fury I've read in Tumblr posts this work barely scrapes the surface of a twinge with its love its elouence its call for community and lack of implication that all white people in the US should go back to Europe In that the danger is not backtracking out of annoyance but appropriating out of a false sense of welcome so it is fortunate that I came to this already knowing better For white women there is a wider range of pretended choices and rewards for identifying with patriarchal power and its toolsWhen patriarchy dismisses us it encourages our murderers When radical lesbian feminist theory dismisses us it encourages its own demise What is this social justice I speak of? Is it a mockery? Is it a hating of whites? Is it perhaps post menstrual syndrome a time when a cis gendered woman's body comes as close in testosterone level to those with which the cis gendered male's body operates every time all the time? Is it my neuroatypicality a fancy word of self empowerment that simply means that by the standards of society I am not considered sane As a writer I hone my craft on bleeding my feelings into my pen and keyboard and those feelings are rarely kind never peaceful and every so often disinter themselves from the breed that shoots up schools and rains down drones As a white woman social justice is the art of inherent power as propagated towards the self and pressed upon the other an art that will ask 'who' and 'how' and 'why' and say above all else 'no' Sometime in the future a 'yes' may be possible when the Chapel Hill shooting's status as a hegemonic hate crime is not birthed in limbo when white women stop diagnosing the choices of black women in order to 'help' when I no longer have to choose the lesser evil of academia over the greater one of the drug industry in order to fulfill my socioeconomic uota with doing what I love Until then readers who are white do not infantilize this work with unconditional acceptance and utter lack of self reflexivity Do so and you whitewash this narrative into policed gentrification and that is a fucking disgrace For it is not the anger of Black women which is dripping down over this globe like a diseased liuid It is not my anger that launches rockets spends over sixty thousand dollars a second on missiles and other agents of war and death slaughters children in cities stockpiles nerve gas and chemical bombs sodomizes our daughters and our earth It is not the anger of Black women which corrodes into blind dehumanizing power bent upon the annihilation of us all unless we meet it with what we have our power to examine and to redefine the terms upon which we will live and work; our power to envision and to reconstruct anger by painful anger stone upon heavy stone a future of pollinating differences and the earth to support our choices Priorities people Priorities


  6. says:

    In her essay The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House Audre Lorde uotes Simone de Beauvoir It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for actingAudre Lorde wrote about the genuine conditions of her life She was a single mother She was a black woman A lesbian A feminist An educator A poet A daughter of immigrants A cancer survivor Her essays contextualize what is happening in the world right now and this collection simply enriched my life in the short weeks I spent with itI enjoyed how candidly she wrote enjoyed the strength and courage emanating from her words She was an agent for change and I think she would be marching and speaking against police violence today if she was still aliveIn Age Race Class and Sex Women Redefining Difference Lorde addresses the importance of recognizing the oppression of women while also recognizing the differences of race sexual preference class and age She discusses the absence of the literature of women of color in literature and women studies courses even listing the work of women whose work had been trivialized like Angelina Grimke Alice Dunbar Nelson and Lorraine Hansberry She writes this and it sounds as if she were writing it now Some problems we share as women some we do not You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dyingIn Poetry is Not a Luxury she writes about poetry as illumination a way of bringing experience and feelings to the page we can train ourselves to respect our feelings and to transpose them into a language so that they can be sharedIn The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action she addresses fear and those insecurities that make some hide from the truth stating profoundly for it is not difference which immobilizes us but silence And there are so many silences to be brokenIn An Interview Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich the conversation is rich and inviting Lorde speaks openly about her vulnerabilities as a writer feeling inarticulate inscrutable terrified to speak and yet realizing that she could not put weapons of silence in her enemies' hands I enjoyed the ease with which she was able to correct her friend Adrienne Rich regarding perceptions and still continue with intellectual dialogueIn The Uses of Anger Women Responding to Racism she discusses the anger of exclusion of unuestioned privilege of racial distortions of silence She says when women of color speak out of anger that laces so many of our contacts with white women we are often told that we are 'creating a mood of helplessness' or 'standing in the way of trusting communication and action' I liked how she spoke of anger as pain but also as survival mechanism; anger as a weapon of the oppressed


  7. says:

    Sister Outsider was a really fantastic introduction to Audre Lorde for me though its episodic nature isn't my favorite way to digest nonfiction and I think I would have preferred to stay on track with any one of these essays for a hundred pages rather than to bounce around from topic to topic the way this collection is structured though all pieces are obviously interconnected to an extent But still this is a sharp and insightful and seminal work that I'd recommend


  8. says:

    One of the greatest books of all time by one of the most brilliant minds of all time


  9. says:

    For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house They may allow us temporarily to beat him his own game but they will never enable us to bring genuine change My first foray into Audre Lorde outside of the odd extract read in university and I loved it This is absolutely essential reading for intersectional feminism ueer theory Black Lesbian lit and just raceclassgender commentary It is alarming how recent some of the issues Lorde brings up feel not much has maybe changed Brilliantly written every essay highly engaging and worthwhile An all around must read for everyone I cannot wait to read Audre Lorde and to reread this once I have a physical copy and can highlighttake notes My top five favourites were Uses of the Erotic The Erotic as Power The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House Man Child A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response Grenada Revisited An Interim Report Scratching the Surface Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving


  10. says:

    Audre Lorde was a poet academic speaker feminist activist sister and mother of two who grew up in 1930’s Harlem She wrote 12 books and tragically passed away at the age of 58 from cancer in 1992I’ve had her collection of essays Sister Outsider on my list of books I wanted to read for a few years I came across it after reading an article or blog post that put it at or near the top of books one should read if interested in feminism gender euality They are the kind of books that those who studied the humanities and perhaps took women andor gender studies will have had an awareness of and the rest have to dig a little to find out about All that is made easier today as we are able to follow readers writers who share articles lists books of interest via twitter or online reading groups etcAnd while some of Lorde’s experience will be uniue to her and those who relate to her experience as a black lesbian poet and academic in America it is both the differences and the universality of her message that interests me her lucid prose carries the telltale markings of a poet set free from that form of a woman with an elevated consciousness whose reflections teach us something break through common misconceptions She invites us to listen and learnThe collection both begins and ends with essays that focus on her travelling outside the US a literal perception of her as an outsider however the main body of work centers around issues within her country of birth where that feeling of ‘outsider’ arrives because of the way we relate to others or how they relate to our race identity gender sexual orientation classTRIP TO RUSSIAI loved this opening essay what an amazing opportunity to travel to Moscow for a conference an experience that affected her so deeply she dreamed about it every night for weeks after her return We read this and sense how little we really know about life in a country where most of what we see read and hear is a form of propaganda our respective country’s wish us to believe not the lives of ordinary people going to work or the little things that might impress us different from our own normalHer first observation begins with the woman in the seat in front of her on the plane travelling alone She assists her noticing she wears three medals“Hero of the Republic medals I learned later Earned for hard workThis is something I noticed all over the very old people in Russia have a stamp upon them that I hope I can learn and never lose a matter of fact resilience and sense of their place upon the earth that is very sturdy and reassuring”She doesn’t say much about the conference it is the everyday differences ad similarities she is interested in and notices One evening before dinner she walks outside and enters a Metro station just to watch the faces of people coming in and out The strangest thing she notices was that there were no Black people and the ticket collector and station manger were womenThe station was very large and very beautiful and very clean – shockingly strikingly enjoyably clean The whole station looked like a theatre lobby – bright brass and mosaics and shiny chandeliersAnd then on to Tashkent a place of contrasts a people Uzbeki who are Asian and they are Russian people she senses are warm blooded familiar engaging The old part looks to her like a town in Ghana or Dahomey African in so many ways She meets a woman who enlightens her on the history of the women of Uzbekistan women who fought to who their faces and go to school and they died for it Different struggles hard earned progress both inspirational and cautionaryPOETRY IS NOT A LUXURYA mini four page essay full of light that I read and reread because it ignites one’s inner creativity I search for a passage to share and find it almost too restricting to condense her flow of thoughts into one phrase It is this essay that demonstrates Lorde’s evolved consciousness and connection to a women’s sense of power that comes from some ancient deep place something that cries out to be illuminatedIt is poignant to reread this again now in the days that follow the passing of another great woman poet Mary Oliver whose collection A Thousand Mornings I am reminded of when I read Lorde’s thoughts on the power and benefit of poetry whether we are writing it or reading itFor women poetry is not a luxury It is a vital necessity of our existence Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought It forms the uality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams towards survival and change first made into language then into idea then into tangible action The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems carved from the rock experiences of our daily livesPoetry provides new ways of making ideas felt it allows symbolism to replace that which can’t often be articulated and it is that ancient connection to divine feminine energy that puts us back in touch with our ability to see through signs and symbolsTHE TRANSFORMATION of SILENCE into LANGUAGE and ACTIONLorde begins to address the complicit silence of women in this essay and will return to it in subseuent essays leading up to The Uses of Anger where she challenges them into action even if that means active listening reading and learning to become awareIn this essay she speaks of the fear of coming out of silence because that transformation is an act of self revelation that seems fraught with dangerIn the cause of silence each of us draws the face of her own fear – fear of contempt of censure or some judgement or recognition of challenge of annihilation But most of all I think we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly liveIn MASTER’S TOOLS she confronts our differences and speaks of the arrogance of discussing feminist theory without examining these and input from poor women Black and Third World women and lesbians that as women we have been taught either to ignore our differences or see them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than forces for changeIt is learning how to stand alone unpopular and sometimes reviled and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengthsIn THE USES OF ANGER WOMEN RESPONDING TO RACISM though she speaks within the context of racism towards Black women giving examples of how implicit this can be in the language of white women who don’t consider themselves racist unconscious bias and privilege have been embedded in our societies for centuries her dissection and exploration of the transformative power of anger goes beyond racism and has been applied to feminism and the voice of women trying to progress in other areasShe likens anger and fear as spotlights that can be used for growth rejecting guilt and defensiveness pushing women to strive for better than thatEvery women has a well stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions personal and institutional which brought that anger into being Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change If we accept our powerlessness then of course any anger can destroy usDr Brittany Cooper in her book Elouent Rage A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower takes her work further on behalf of Black women suggesting that ultimately feminism friendship and faith in one’s own superpowers are what we need to turn things around while Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger tracks the history of women’s anger from the past to the present She deconstructs society’s and the media’s condemnation of female emotion notably rage and the impact of their resulting repercussions These two authors recently came together in conversation to discuss the common ground between their books you can read about that or listen to them by visiting this post How Sister Outsider Lead to a Chat Between Elouent Rage and Good and MadThe collection ends with another visit this time to a place that was always referred to as home the birthplace of her mother GRENADA REVISITED She remembers the first time she visited in 1979 children in their uniforms carrying their shoes as they walked along the busy seafront the main thoroughfare to school; the woman cooking fish in the market the full moon It was just eleven months before the political coup that ousted a 30 year regime ‘wasteful corrupt and United States sanctioned’The second time 1983 she came in mourning following the invasion by the United States ‘the rationalisations which collapse under weight of the facts’ details of which are shared in this piece subtitled ‘An Interim Report’Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat visited Grenada in 2017 and though familiar with Lorde’s essay read it afresh before landing Her essay Dawn After the Tempests published in the New York Times pays tribute to Lorde’s visit and is a fitting follow upOverall it’s a diverse and thought provoking collection that continues to inspire readers and writers alike“Lorde’s works will be important to those truly interested in growing up sensitive intelligent and aware” New York TimesFurther ReadingEdwidge Danticat Dawn After the Tempests New York Times