Your Silence will not protect you by Audre Lorde | Review

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
This is one of the iconic sentences Audre Lorde is famous for and in fact the quote that first introduced me to Audre Lorde’s work. More importantly, it’s the inspiration of the type of feminism I strive to pursue. I had my fair share of issues approaching modern feminism and finding my place and identity as a woman, but more importantly as a human within it. Finding this quote was not only the answer to my question of where I belong, but ultimately the answer to anyone asking why I think feminism is still necessary.
A huge part of my issues with a lot of today’s approaches of feminism is how privileged and exclusive we make it especially in the western world. Even as being a white privileged woman myself, I felt massively uncomfortable with this approach. It was time for me to pick up a book that does not pat me on my back for being a progressive feminist for doing absolutely nothing to actually help others raise their voice too. It was time for me to pick up a book and listen, if they decide to speak.
In fact, speaking up is one of the main focuses of the works by Audre Lorde collected in this edition, as you might be able to tell from the title.
Even if I only use my rantings on my goodreads for myself, I decided not to rate this book, since ultimately, even though it’s a personal thing, people will see the rating and maybe form their opinion to pick it up around it. And since my personal enjoyment of reading this and the importance for the greater good are not entirely matching up, a rating felt wrong. This collection contains a preface Reni Eddo-Lodge and an introduction by Sara Ahmed, which where both extremely powerful, and a selection of Audre Lorde’s essays and poetry. I personally read the poems first and then the essays, even though the order is the other way around in the book I would highly recommend doing it this way, since the essays give a lot of background information to the poems, and I appreciated that after reading them.
There are several aspects that make Audre Lorde’s work so extremely powerful to me personally, but also in general and especially for Black women. The strength of the collection lies in these aspects. Not only in her poetry, but also in her essays Lorde is creating some of the most iconic lines in the history of feminism, which are filled with such powerful messages and are proof she knows how to use her words. On a content level I especially appreciated her discussions on sexism and hetero-sexism within the Black community, putting the focus on an issue many oppressed groups have to face; the oppression within themselves.
With that comes the one aspect that completely made this collection for me, especially the poems. Audre Lorde’s anger was tangible between every word. I was glad she was angry, it was necessary that she was angry. It is necessary for people in privileged positions to shut the heck up and let people feeling oppressed be angry, because it’s not them choosing the anger, it’s the privileged making the oppressed angry. No matter with what they struggle, the rich versus the poor, the divisions between genders, sexualities and norms, people of color against the existing white supremacy of many. The struggles are very different and the difference needs to be acknowledged, but the anger is valid in every situation and Audre Lorde is the perfect example on how to use this anger effectively.
There were three aspects that unfortunately hindered my personal enjoyment, but should in no way discourage you to pick up the book, as I said it’s incredibly important. The first one focuses mainly on her poem. Audre Lorde expresses a lot in her essays that for her poetry is the best way for expressing her thoughts and feelings and she struggles to adapt to other writing styles. Now I personally found that her poems where not that different from her essays in styles, and sometimes, unfortunately not even in length. Some just felt way too long and would have definitely profited from a more harsh editing on her part, though I understand that she didn’t do that since it’s her way of expressing emotions and I acknowledge it’s more of a personal preferences. In the end it made me struggle to get through some of the poems and I had to go back and re-read it to get the full picture.
Her whole approach towards poetry irritate me quite a bit, even as someone who writes poetry myself. I had quite an issue understanding her generalization of poetry as the only way of properly expressing your thoughts and emotions and felt like she would not value any other form equally.
In general there were quite a few generalizations and assumptions that made me frustrated throughout the collection as those are things I feel are unnecessary to use while trying to speak up about something so important.
I wished that the focus was more on her personal experiences, as those parts were absolutely powerful and moving, instead of trying to project and generalize her experience onto others, which happened a lot in her works.
Nonetheless, I am extremely grateful for experiencing this collection and the wonderful buddy read I had with my friend Hélène.


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