Shoot the Hype Man: My thoughts on Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name by Audre Lorde

25 Feb

It amazes me how much hype pollutes expectation and even more so poisons perception.  I’ve just finished reading Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name by Audre Lorde and I found myself feeling just meh about it.

Before anyone throws bottles, sends death threats or stops reading altogether let me get to the point of my post. I was introduced to Zami nearly six years ago in college. It was the book that all of my friends in American studies major friends were reading. The book my Gender studies major friends were raving about.  This book, the story of Audre Lorde’s life and love, was hailed by my scholarly friends as life changing.  For me I think this book suffers from what one of my favorite podcasts would call “the Juno Effect”.

Remember Juno? It was the movie about the quirky, intellectual, pregnant teen girl who throws quips at her family and friends with speed and ease. She changed the lives of those around her and handled being a teen mom with sarcastic grace.  When this film came out it was the talk of the town, critics loved it, teens identified with it, and everyone loved the well-written dialogue. Anyone and everyone who saw it bubbled over with good things to say about it. It was a “game changer”. This movie was getting more hype then Beyonce’s video when Kanye interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs.  After hearing this movie is a 20 out of 10 it’s kind of discouraging to discover it’s really an 8 or a 9.  Still great but not the earth-shattering thing it was hyped to be.

The difference between Juno and Zami is that Zami has become the Icon of a people.  I am probably committing intellectual suicide with my opinions. As a black, queer woman, many parts of this book spoke to me.  It’s well written and many of the moments resonated. There were times when I was reading and I felt propelled to the next page.  There were equally pages that felt unnecessary and made the book feel slow. I think this is true for a lot books and I think it’s even truer for biographies and autobiographies. It’s difficult to keep every page about a persons life exciting because let’s face it, not everyday of your life is exciting!

I say all this to say I appreciate the book. I’m glad that it exists and creates a space for discussion of the black lesbian experience.  I’m grateful to have the reference BUT I can’t say the book transformed my life. When you’re expecting life changing and you don’t get it, it’s disappointing. I’m sure when this post is read instead of reading that I thought the book was well-written and I know the feeling of flicking your eyes over someone trying to decide if that black woman is “fam”, people will say “She didn’t like Zami???? WTF???”



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