WARRIOR POET: A Biography of Audre Lorde

Alexis De Veaux, Author
Alexis De Veaux, Author . Norton $29.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-393-01954-4
Reviewed on: 01/19/2004
Release date: 00/00/0000
Paperback - 446 pages - 978-0-393-32935-3
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This biography of Audre Lorde, the self-described "black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet warrior" who died of metastasized breast cancer in 1992, at age 58, captures the complexities of a charismatic figure whose every personal move was indeed political. De Veaux, chair of the women's studies department at SUNY-Buffalo, draws from over 60 of Lorde's unpublished journals as well as testimony from friends and family, though she points out with academic caution in her introduction that this is only a "subjective" story. De Veaux divides her book between Lorde's "two lives," her emergence from a difficult Harlem childhood to a celebrated literary career and, later, her struggle with cancer. Born in 1934 to Caribbean immigrants, Lorde had a persistent, haunting feeling of being an outsider. An early interracial marriage to Ed Rollins brought two children, but Lorde came to find deeper satisfaction in lesbian love, embarking on a decades-long relationship with Frances Clayton and maintaining erotic friendships with activists and poets who informed and shaped her work. By the 1980s, Lorde's writings were internationally recognized, and she continued to articulate her ideas on race, sexuality and gender in groundbreaking ways, eventually bravely documenting her personal experience with breast cancer. This account does not include Lorde's final days, focusing instead on her working years. While De Veaux occasionally slips into academic-speak, she is a skilled biographer, pulling together the contradictory facts of Lorde's public and private personae with ease. Subjective it may be, but Warrior Poet is also a satisfying portrait of a brave life. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW . Agent, Charlotte Sheedy. (Mar.)

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