A Burst of Light

Front Cover
Women's Press, 1992 - African American lesbians - 134 pages
From Publishers Weekly -- In 1984, feminist poet Lorde learned that her breast cancer had metastasized to the liver. The moving title section comprises a series of journal excerpts that both frighten and inspire: choosing not to have a biopsy, she instead treats the disease with a stay at the homeopathic Lukas Klinik in Switzerland, consultations with more traditional medical specialists and alternatives like self-hypnosis. Her lifelong battle against racism, sexism and homophobia has armed her with the resilience to resist cancer, and thus "A Burst of Light" becomes not only a chronicle of Lorde's fight against disease, but a view of one woman's sparring with injustice, whether the oppressors are the South African police, the American government or malignant cells within her own body. Although it rings out with passion, anger and hope, the lengthy title piece is sometimes rambling and repetitive. In refreshing contrast, three outstanding essays on black lesbianism, the parallels between South Africa and the United States, and lesbian parenting are politically specific and pithy.-- via amazon.ca.

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About the author (1992)

An African American lesbian feminist critic and writer, Lorde was born in Harlem and educated at National University of Mexico, Hunter College, and Columbia University. She married in 1962 and divorced in 1970, after having two children. Lorde first came to critical attention with her poetry. Her first poem was published in Seventeen magazine while she was in high school; it had been rejected by her high school newspaper because it was "too romantic" (Lorde considered her "mature" poetry, which focuses on her lesbian relationships, to be romantic also). Other early poems were published in many different journals, many of them under the pseudonym Rey Domini. Her first volume of poetry, "The First Cities," was published in 1968. Lorde then quit her job as head librarian at a school in New York City in order to devote her time to teaching and writing. She was a professor of English at Hunter College from 1980 until her untimely death from cancer in 1992. Although many of Lorde's poems are about love, many are about anger, particularly anger about racism, sexism, and homophobia in America. "The Brown Menace or Poem to the Survival of Roaches" likens African Americans to cockroaches---hated, feared, and poisoned by whites but survivors nevertheless. Other poems express a daughter's anger toward her mother; still others eschew anger for affirmation and inspiration, which are represented as coming from lesbian love and traditional African myths because, as Lorde has said, "the master's tools will not dismantle the master's house." Lorde is also well known for her prose. Her courageous account of her struggle with breast cancer and the mastectomy that she underwent is movingly chronicled in "The Cancer Journals" (1980), her first major prose publication. "Zami, a New Spelling of My Name" (1982) is, in Lorde's words, a "biomythography," combining history, biography, and myth. In "Zami," Lorde focuses on her developing lesbian identity and her response to racism in the white feminist and gay communities, and to sexism and homophobia in the African American community. Lorde's critical essays, collected in "Sister/Outsider" (1984) and "A Burst of Light "(1988), have been quite influential, particularly "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," in which she discusses the relationship of poetry to politics and the erotic. Lorde was the recipient of several grants---from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1968 and 1981 and from the Creative Artists Public Service in 1972---as well as the Borough of Manhattan President's Award for Literary Excellence in 1987. She was also nominated for the National Book Award for poetry in 1974 for her third volume of verse, "From a Land Where Other People Live"(1973).

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