Audre Geraldine Lorde was born February 18, 1934, in New York City. She developed an interest in poetry at an early age. She began writing poetry of her own when she was only a teenager. After high school, she worked to support herself while attending Hunter College. She graduated in 1959 and went on to earn her Master’s degree in library science from Columbia University.
Following her graduation from Columbia University in 1961, Lorde began working as a librarian in Mount Vernon, New York. She held that position throughout most of the 1960s. She settled down and married an attorney named Edwin Rollins. Two children and just a few years later, their marriage had ended in divorce.
In 1968, Lorde’s first volume of poetry was published; it was titled ‘First Cities.’ That same year, she left her librarian job and began teaching a poetry workshop at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. There, she was able to witness the racial tensions of the deep South first hand.
Living in the South inspired Lorde’s second volume of poetry, titled ‘Cables of Rage,’ which came two years later in 1970. Her second volume focused on love, deceit, family, and sexuality/sexual orientation. She then went on to teach at John Jay College and Hunter College.
‘From a Land’
Lorde gained a great deal of notoriety from her third volume of poetry, titled ‘From a Land Where Other People Live.’ Her 1973 book of poetry earned her a nomination for a National Book Award. She wrote several more volumes of poetry in the following years that focused on race, gender, sexual orientation, and feminism and won her a substantial following.
Aside from her poetry, Lorde was also a remarkable essayist. Some of her most famous essays were compiled in ‘The Cancer Journals’ (1980), which documented her personal struggle with breast cancer. After having a mastectomy, cancer spread to her liver. The worsening of the disease inspired her to write, ‘A Burst of Light’ (1989), another collection of essays.
Audre Lorde moved to the Virgin Islands to battle her cancer but ultimately died on November 17, 1992, on the island of St. Croix. She was 58 years old. She had earned a number of accolades, like an American Book Award. She had also taken on the African name, Gamba Adisa, meaning “she who makes her meaning clear;” a name she definitely lived up to.
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