Every year since 2012, the only lesbian literary society in the United States selects one book that conveys “meaningful lesbian experiences with influential historical value to the lesbian community.” This year, the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) has chosen Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.
Zami, published in 1982, undoubtedly has historical value for lesbians, as Lorde wrote about “to be Black, to be Black and female, to be Black, female, and gay in a white environment.” Lorde called the work a “biomythography, combining elements of history, biography and myth.” The autobiographical elements of the book explore Lorde’s discovery of her attraction to other women and the relationships she had with other women.
This is the second time in ten years the GCLS has chosen a writer of color for the Lee Lynch Classic Award. The first was the 2019 recipient, Ann Allan Shockley’s Loving Her.
The award was first given to lesbian author Lee Lynch for The Swashbuckler, her 1988 book about a butch lesbian in New York City and Provincetown in the 1960s and 1970s. Lynch’s first piece of published writing appeared in the 1960s in The Ladder, the first lesbian publication in the U.S., and has published over twenty books with lesbian themes since then.
Lynch and the other previous recipients of another GCLS award, the Trailblazer Award, are the ones who determine the winner of the annual Lee Lynch Classic Award. Other “Trailblazers” include Ann Bannon, Lillian Faderman, Judy Grahn, and Joan Nestle.
“In Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde legitimized for me my queerness in a way I had not experienced,” Lynch wrote in the February 3 announcement of the award. “Here was a mature, wholly realized lesbian of great pride and stature who, in her exploration of self, race, class—the human experience—spilled a poet’s words of magic that inveigled me to respect and continue the life I chose to live and the work I felt called to do. Reading Lorde’s book is an honor and an entrance to a rarefied vision of our lesbian selves in the world.”
Lorde, who passed away in 1992 at the age of 58, described herself as “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” and wrote about those intersections from a feminist perspective. Her other works include Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984) and The Cancer Journals (1980).
Zami will be honored along with other award winners at the GCLS’s annual awards ceremony on July 24, currently planned to take place in Orlando, FL as part of the nonprofit organization’s annual conference for writers, editors, publishers, and readers who celebrate books about women loving women.