The Cancer Journals: Special Edition. By Audre Lorde. Book Cover.

Lorde described herself as “a black-lesbian feminist mother lover poet.”

Poet, essayist, and novelist Audre Lorde was born on February 18, 1934, in New York City. Her parents were immigrants from Grenada. Lorde received her B.A. from Hunter College and an M.L.S. from Columbia University. Her first volume of poems, The First Cities, was published in 1968. The First Cities was quickly followed with Cables to Rage (1970) and From a Land Where Other People Live (1972), which was nominated for a National Book Award. In 1974 she published New York Head Shot and Museum.

In 1976, W.W. Norton released her collection Coal and shortly thereafter published The Black Unicorn. Her other volumes include Chosen Poems Old and New (1982) and Our Dead Behind Us (1986). Although her work gained wide acclaim, she was also sharply criticized. In an interview in the journal Callaloo, Lorde responded to her critics: “My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds. . . . Jesse Helms’s objection to my work is not about obscenity . . .or even about sex. It is about revolution and change. . . . Helms knows that my writing is aimed at his destruction, and the destruction of every single thing he stands for.”

Lorde was diagnosed with cancer and chronicled her struggles in her first prose collection, The Cancer Journals, which won the Gay Caucus Book of the Year award for 1981. Her other prose volumes include Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982), Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984), and A Burst of Light (1988), which won a National Book Award.

In the 1980s, Lorde and writer Barbara Smith founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. She was also a founding member of Sisters in Support of Sisters in South Africa, an organization that worked to raise concerns about women under apartheid.

Audre Lorde was professor of English at John Jay College of criminal justice and Hunter College. She was the poet laureate of New York from 1991-1992. She died of breast cancer in 1992. The Collected Poems Of Audre Lorde was published in 1997.

Copyright © 1997 – 2007 by The Academy of American Poets

Audre Lorde

Below you can find books by Audre Lorde. Click on the links to purchase books from our favorite bookstore, Charis Books & More in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Cancer Journals

Moving between journal entry, memoir, and exposition, Audre Lorde fuses the personal and political as she reflects on her experience coping with breast cancer and a radical mastectomy. Includes photos and tributes to Lorde written after her death in 1992.
Zami: A new spelling of my name. A biomythography by Audre Lorde.

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography

ZAMI is a fast-moving chronicle. From the author’s vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Audre Lorde’s work is cyclical. It especially relates the linkage of women who have shaped her . . . Lorde brings into play her craft of lush description and characterization. It keeps unfolding page after page. Off Our Backs

Chosen Poems - Old and New

Only the worlds of Africa scrutinized in The Black Unicorn, too complex for excerpt, have been excluded. The volume also includes seven new poems. As Adrienne Rich has written, Lorde, for the complexity of her vision, for her moral courage and the catalytic passion of her language, has already become, for many, an indispensable poet. Chosen Poems will provide for Lorde’s readers, both old and new, another proof of this continuing truth.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

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.
Modern American Poetry: Audre Lorde
From the University of Illinois’ English department, read discussion and analysis of Lorde’s poetry.

New York State Writers Institute – Audre Lorde: State Poet, 1991-1993
Read articles related to the installation of Lorde as the state poet of New York in 1991, where she gave an impassioned speech.

Tribute to Audre Lorde
A tribute to Lorde from the University of Colorado, featuring some of Lorde’s poetry as well as original content.

Voices from the Gaps
University of Minnesota professors Toni McNaron (English) and Carol Miller (American Studies and American Indian Studies) founded VG/Voices from the Gaps in 1996 to uncover, highlight, and share the works of marginalized artists, predominately women writers of color living and working in North America.

Breast Cancer Videos


Additional Resources

A Chicago-based not-for-profit organization which currently serves black lesbian, bisexual women, transgendered women, and lesbigay youth of African descent.

HuffPost BlackVoices
Information and community portal centered on Africa and her Diaspora.

KUMA: Black Lesbian Erotica
E-zine filled with black lesbian poetry, stories, artwork, music, and more.

Spirit Health Education Circle
S.H.E. Circle harnesses the power of this sisterhood or sistahood to empower, energize, and engage African women in a personal journey to healthy living and dis-ease prevention.

Blacklight Online
Online magazine for gay/lesbians of color.

Atlanta-based organization serving GLBT teens and young people, ages 13-24.

Zuna Institute
A national advocacy organization for black lesbians that was created to address the needs of black lesbians in the areas of health, public policy, economic development, and education.