Recommended Reading: Audre Lorde Review

| October 4, 2017

“Your Silence Will Not Protect You” by Audre Lorde
Review by Ro Kwon published by the Guardian – prophetic and necessary

The black lesbian feminist writer and poet, who died 25 years ago, is better known than ever, her words often quoted in books and on social media.”

Essay by Ro Kwon, published by the Guardian

This is the first edition of Audre Lorde’s writing to be issued by a UK, publisher, which isn’t to  say it will be the first time British readers will have encountered her work. Even those who haven’t yet engaged with her incandescent prose and poetry might have come across individual lines, quoted in other writers’ books and essays, and on social media, such as the titular exhortation: “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” Other lines include: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”; “Black feminism is not white feminism in blackface”; and “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 colour remains chained.”

These and other excerpts have been posted, tweeted and pinned in part because of their ongoing relevance. Lorde seems prophetic, perhaps alive right now, writing in and about the US of 2017 in which a misogynist with white supremacist followers is president. But she was born in 1934, published her first book of poetry in 1968, and died in 1992. Black, lesbian and feminist; the child of immigrant parents; poet and essayist, writer and activist, Lorde knew about harbouring multitudes. Political antagonists tried, for instance, to discredit her among black students by announcing her sexuality, and she decided: “The only way you can head people off from using who you are against you is to be honest and open first, to talk about yourself before they talk about you.” Over and over again, in the essays, speeches and poems collected in Your Silence Will Not Protect You, Lorde emphasises how important it is to speak up. To give witness: “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?”

These remain urgent questions – a battle cry, I might call it, except that part of the power of Lorde’s writing comes of her manifest vulnerability. In the remarkable essay “Man Child”, she writes about raising a son, Jonathan, who was bullied by his third-grade classmates. Hearing of the bullies’ cruelties, she says that “an interesting and very disturbing thing” happened:


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