I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde
I Am Your Sister is a collection for those who want and need to be introduced to Audre Lorde’s thinking, and it is a great anthology for those who have read and been inspired by Lorde’s writing all of their lives. How is this possible? Because I Am Your Sister is not just a collection of Lorde’s seminal work, but a celebration, an honoring, and a thoughtful presentation of who Lorde was—a black lesbian feminist activist and writer. The celebration consists of essays that changed the landscape of feminist thinking (such as the selections from Sister Outsider, as well as the full text of A Burst of Light), pieces of nonfiction that have been scarcely published or never before been published, speeches that have never before been seen in print, and a final section consisting of contemporary writers reflecting on the importance and meaning of Lorde’s work in today’s society.
I Am Your Sister is all of the things, and it is so much more. I see it as a revelation of sorts—an eye opener to how the struggles of past times continue to be what we grapple with today. Rudolph Byrd’s informative and phenomenal introduction to the anthology shows us how, “Whether addressing racism, sexism, or homophobia, Lorde was concerned always with complexity and the sense of possibility that the discourse of difference invokes.” This idea of difference, of this challenge to choose, as Lorde says, “to define my difference as you must choose to define yours, to claim it and use it as creative before it is defined for you and used to eradicate any future, any change” is an idea and challenge that is still present in today’s political and activist communities. I Am Your Sister, therefore, is also a tool for survival—a teacher to help us realize our possibilities for change.
Those familiar with Lorde’s work will also appreciate the never before published essays and speeches. While they touch on the themes that permeate all of her texts—difference, survival, sexuality, feminist communities, racism, fighting ignorance—they can be read as wonderful supplements to Lorde’s previously published work, as well as sparks of ideas that continue to inform new readings of texts such as Sister Outsider. In Lorde’s previously unpublished speech delivered at the first retreat of black feminists and activists in 1977, for instance, she states, “our unique position within this system is to constantly question its most cherished assumption and to radically change it, not merely to co-opt it and make it work for us.” These words enrich Lorde’s belief in the essay “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action” that “what is most important...must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the rise of having it bruised or misunderstood.” When these words are read together, we fully understand how embracing and creating different types of language and action are part of who we are as activists, and that this recognition will fuel our ability to challenge, not co-opt, the systems of oppression.
The last section of I Am Your Sister adds even more insight into who Lorde was as a person, who she was as a writer and activist, how these things are not separate from each other, and what Lorde means to us today. Part remembrance, part celebration, and part further interrogation in Lorde’s art, humanity, voice, and passion, the reflective essays from Alice Walker, bell hooks, Johnnetta Besch Cole, Gloria Joseph, as well as the insightful epilogue by Beverly Guy-Sheftall brings the anthology to a satisfying close. But, as is usual with Lorde’s profound prose and ideas, we are always left wanting more.