Interview with Audre Lorde

“I get really bored with how much of an issue [interracial relationships] continues to be. But, on the other hand, I get bored with racism too and recognize that there are still many things to be said about a Black person and a White person loving each other in a racist society

By Joseph Beam

Audre LordeAudre Lorde is like a multi-faceted diamond. She is a mother, poet, novelist, publisher, socialist, feminist and Lesbian. Sharp. She cuts through the bramble of political correctness and does not hold her tongue. Reflective. She shows not only where we are but where we wish to be. Brilliant. She does not obscure her vision with intellectual jargon but writes simply, yet eloquently. Despite her rigorous schedule, I was able to reach her by phone at her Staten Island, New York home. What follows is most of our early morning conversation. Beam: How do you manage to balance all the aspects of self: poet, Lesbian, mother, feminist, and so on? How do you nurture and attend to all those roles concurrently and still find time to read the newspaper and wash the dishes?

Lorde: Well, lots of times the dishes don't get washed. That's one of the problems. As Frances [her lover] and I always note, ruefully, everything we do nurtures everything else, as well as competes for time. It has to be like that or else I would just collapse under the weight. I think, for most of us, once we soften that categorizing sense that compartmentalizes us with the various lives we live, once we allow all our stuff to flow more freely, once I am who I am, a lot of energy is freed for the questions that arise rather than the roles to be played.

Beam: Are you going to continue with your story that you began in "Zami: A New Spelling of My Name?"

Lorde: Now that "Sister Outsider" is done I want to start on a second piece of fiction but it's not going to be "biomythography." I call Zami biomythography because it's made up of myth, history and biography, all the ways in which we perceive the world around us. I would like to do another piece of fiction dealing with a number of issues: Lesbian parenting, the 1960's, and interracial relationships in the Lesbian and Gay community. I'm being very vague about it because I'm not really sure how I'm going to construct that.

Beam: One issue I haven't seen you address in print is the interracial relationship in which you are involved. Interracial relationships seem, at different times, to be more or less of an issue in the Gay and Lesbian community.

Lorde: It's always and issue! I get really bored with how much of an issue it continues to be. But, on the other hand, I get bored with racism too and recognize that there are still many things to be said about a Black person and a White person loving each other in a racist society. I've spoken about the relationship between Frances and me a little bit in the "Cancer Journals." More in "Sister Outsider," in a long article called "Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred and Anger." There's a long poem, "Outlines," in my new collection of poetry which looks at the evolution of Black and White women who do not love each other and the relationship between Black and White women who do love each other.

Beam: The literary establishment in America has a tendency to select and honor one Black writer per year. A couple of years ago it was Toni Morrison. Last year it was Alice Walker and, to a lesser extent, Gloria Naylor. Do you see this tendency, which has been employed for decades, as problematic?

Lorde: I think it has been employed for decades and it is problematic. I am very, very happy for Alice Walker. When I saw her picture on the cover of the New York Times Book Review I thought, "Well good for you Alice! I wish it had been me. But if it wasn't me, I'm really glad it's you." I really can't see a picture of a Black dyke on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. I would start to get real worried, saying the kinds of things I do, and knowing what I'm trying to do, if I did wind up on the cover of the Times Book Review. I'd begin to ask myself what that meant as a Black Lesbian feminist committed to radical social change. But the Gay and Lesbian community contributes to this invisibility. What do you think it means when Lambda Rising, Washington D.C.'s Gay bookstore, that says it "celebrates the Gay experience," takes a full page ad in Blacklight and does not include one single title by a Black Lesbian? Should Barbara Smith, Pat Parker, Ann Shockley, Cheryl Clarke and others, laugh or cry? It's not only the literary establishment that renders us invisible.

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