Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jewelle Gomez Reflects on Audre Lorde's Life and Work

[above is the cover of the book that began with stories Jewelle Gomez sent to Audre Lorde for critique and feedback. It is from here]

[this delightful photograph of Jewelle Gomez is from here]

What follows may be found at its original site by clicking on the title just below.

My Memories of Audre Lorde: “Pretend We’re on Our Second Date”

Posted by: WRB Blog in Women's Review of Books on Print PDF
WRB Blog
By Jewelle Gomez for WOMEN = BOOKS

Audre Lorde was an iconic literary and political figure in New York City's feminist community of the 1970s and 1980s. Her stature rested on not just her writing and organizing but also on her persona, which was both imperious and accessible. She was also flirtatious. So I took her at her word: "silence has never brought us anything of worth.”

Despite being shy in 1980, I took a leap and mailed her a copy of my self-published first collection of poems. Why not?

She left me a message on my phone machine in her mellifluous Caribbean voice. I listened to it in shock about ten times before I actually heard her words of congratulations—along with editing comments.

Thus began one of the most important professional and personal relationships of my life. Not like best friends or anything, but it did grow into a sense of collegiality that I treasured. Every writer needs the tough love and cheerleading that Audre was willing to provide for lesbian feminist writers. Her legacy is her own large body of work—a major accomplishment in its own right—and the work of the many writers and activists she nurtured, cajoled, and seduced into fulfilling their writing and political promise.

In 1984, I interviewed her for the documentary Before Stonewall. I was extremely nervous as we sat outside of the Cornelia Street Café in the West Village, waiting for the camera set-up. She immediately saw that and ordered wine—it was 10 in the morning!—and then said, “Pretend we’re on our second date.”

When she and the other interview subject, Maua Flowers, finished laughing at my blushing, my anxiety had evaporated and we were friends, talking about our lives, just in front of a camera.

Some years later, as she was giving me a ride home, I again dug up my courage and asked Audre if she'd read my collection of lesbian vampire stories. She was definitive in her response: She didn't like vampires, she wasn't that fond of short stories, and, yes, she'd read them.

Waiting for her response was not the most relaxing period in my life, believe me. When it finally came, I was unprepared for the complete fulfillment of her reputation: Imperious—she was still not fond of short stories. Accessible—she thought my book was really a novel, and she knew I would do the editing to reshape it. Her assurance, even as she contradicted what I thought I was doing, turned my first novel, The Gilda Stories, into a reality.

The last time I saw her—in her NYC hospital room, where she and I finished judging a poetry contest together—she was still as tough and incisive in her opinions as ever. And as playful. When I leaned down to hug her good-bye, she sniffed at my neck, admiring the scent I was wearing, gardenia body oil. So I left the little vial for her bedside stand, as if I could remain there and keep her from leaving us.

Jewelle Gomez is the author of seven books including The Gilda Stories, winner of two Lambda Literary awards. It’s been in print for nineteen years. You can find her online at her website or Redroom.

Read Jewelle Gomez's review of I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde, edited by Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall,  in the March/April 2010 issue of WRB.

For more on that issue, see below. Source: *here*.

Women's Review of Books 

Since 1983 the Women's Review of Books has provided a forum for serious, informed discussion of new writing by and about women. Women’s Review of Books provides a unique perspective on today’s literary landscape and features essays and in-depth reviews of new books by and about women. Women's Review of Books is published by the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, in collaboration with Old City Publishing in Philadelphia, PA.

  • Amy Hoffman, editor
  • Martha Nichols, Contributing Editor/Blog ManagerThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • Subscriptions - handled by Old City Publishing
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 March/April 2010

Women's Review 
of Books
  • "Tell Our Own Stories" 
    The Thing Around Your Neck
    By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
  • I Do Not Come to You By Chance By Adaobi Tricia Nqaubani An Elegy for Easterly By Petina Gappah Women Writing Zimbabwe By Irene Staunton Reviewed by Heather Hewett
  • In Perpetual Revolt
    Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Trilogy
    By Marie Vieux-Chauvet
    Reviewed by Patti M. Marxsen
  • Adam and Steve and Leslie and Eve
    When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage
    By M. V. Lee Badgett
    Reviewed by Emily Douglas
  • Back in Print After 500 Years
    Incantations: Songs, Spells, and Images by Mayan Women
    By Ambar Past
    Reviewed by Martha Gies
  • Living Large
    The Tall Book: A Celebration of Life from on High
    By Arianne Cohen
    Reviewed by Renee Loth
  • The Storyteller and the Listener
    The Shame of Survival: Working Through a Nazi Childhood
    By Ursula Mahlendorf
    Reviewed by Marcie Hershman
  • The Help
    The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930
    By Margaret Lynch-Brennan
    Reviewed by Lauren Byrne
  • It's the End of the World As We Know It
    The Year of the Flood
    By Margaret Atwood
    Reviewed by Katherine V. Snyder
  • Call it Work, Call it God
    The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation
    By Fanny Howe
    Reviewed by Kelly Davio
  • Poetry
    By Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor
  • Cartoon
    by Roberta Gregory
  • Field Notes
    A Poetic Reckoning
    By Robin Becker
  • Cinderella's Stepmother Speaks Out
    Stepmonsters: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do
    By Wednesday Martin
    Reviewed by Audrey Elisa Kerr
  • The People and the Land
  • National Monuments By Heidi E. Erdrich Reviewed by Cheryl Savageau
  • She Who Makes Her Meaning Clear
    I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde
    Edited by Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnetta Betsch Cole, and Beverly Guy Sheftall
    Reviewed by Jewelle Gomex
  • The "Ocular Ethic"
    Missing Bodies: The Politics of Visibility
    By Monica Casper and Lisa Jean Moore
    Reviewed by Beth Schwartzapfel
  • The Evolution of a Movement
    The Politics of Sexual Abuse: Emotion, Social Movements, and the State
  • By Nancy Whittier Reviewed by Arlene Stein

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