Her poems and prose largely dealt with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity.
In relation to non-intersectional feminism in the United States, Lorde famously said, “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference—those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older—know that survival is not an academic skill.
And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.” Lorde was born in New York City to Caribbean immigrants from Barbados and Carriacou, Frederick Byron Lorde (called Byron) and Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde, who settled in Harlem.
Lorde’s mother was of mixed ancestry but could pass for white, a source of pride for her family.
While Lorde was in Germany she made a significant impact on the women there and was a big part of the start of the Afro-German movement.
The term Afro-German was created by Lorde and some Black German women as a nod to African-American.She was able to spend very little time with her father and mother, who were busy maintaining their real estate business in the tumultuous economy after the Great Depression, and when she did see them, they were often cold or emotionally distant.In particular, Lorde’s relationship with her mother, who was deeply suspicious of people with darker skin than hers (which Lorde’s was) and the outside world in general, was characterized by “tough love” and strict adherence to family rules.Lorde’s father was darker than the Belmar family liked, and they only allowed the couple to marry because of Byron Lorde’s charm, ambition, and persistence.Nearsighted to the point of being legally blind, and the youngest of three daughters (two older sisters, Phyllis and Helen), Audre Lorde grew up hearing her mother’s stories about the West Indies.She learned to talk while she learned to read, at the age of four, and her mother taught her to write at around the same time.She wrote her first poem when she was in eighth grade.Lorde’s difficult relationship with her mother would figure prominently in later poems, such as Coal’s “Story Books on a Kitchen Table.” As a child, Lorde, who struggled with communication, came to appreciate the power of poetry as a form of expression.She memorized a great deal of poetry, and would use it to communicate, to the extent that, “If asked how she was feeling, Audre would reply by reciting a poem.” Around the age of twelve, she began writing her own poetry and connecting with others at her school who were considered “outcasts” as she felt she was.On her return to New York, she attended Hunter College, graduating class of 1959.There, she worked as a librarian, continued writing and became an active participant in the gay culture of Greenwich Village.