How Sister Outsider Lead to a Chat Between Eloquent Rage and Good and Mad

Sister Outsider is something of a classic collection of essays that I first heard about some years ago, a collection that if you have any interest in issues of gender, feminism, or equality should be near the top of the list.

Audre Lordre was a poet, academic, speaker, feminist activist, sister and mother of two, who grew up in 1930’s Harlem. She wrote 12 books and tragically passed away at the age of 58 from cancer in 1992.

I have long wished to read it and was reminded of that recently, when a Goodreads Group I was invited to join and now belong to, Our Shared Shelf, a Feminist Book club created by Emma Watson, inspired by work with UN Women (dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women) posted a link to a video (linked below) of a conversation between two writers who have recently published books that reference Audre Lorde’s work, in particular pertaining to women, anger, and race.

Here was an invitation to listen to and participate in a dialogue about the power and consequence of women’s rage, both personal and political, a conversation across race, across cultural contexts, across the things that make us both different and the same

The conversation was in response to the three books chosen for the Book club’s Nov/Dec 2018 reads and online discussion, they’d chosen Sister Outsider and two recent publications Dr. Brittany Cooper’s Eloquent Rage, A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower and Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.

Audre Lorde was one of the foremost thinkers on the importance of understanding anger, suggesting that most women had not developed tools for facing anger constructively, except to avoid, deflect or flee from it. She wrote about women’s anger transforming difference through insight into power, how it could birth change, that the discomfort and sense of loss it often caused was not fatal, but a sign of growth.

“every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change.”

With the rise of hard right authoritarian regimes around the world, many determined to roll back human rights – the very freedoms previous generations of angry women worked to achieve – women today are again being called to embrace their rage – its force, its potential, its messy complications.

To that end, and just as crucial as the call to angry, eloquent expression, is the responsibility – instilled by Lorde – to listen and learn, with curiosity and respect to the rage of the women around us.

On Rebecca Traister’s book:

Rebecca’s book Good and Mad will give you a deep and engaging (and sometimes enraging) historical deep dive into the way that women’s anger has been used throughout history to drive social movements, as well as how rage at the inequalities replicated within those social movements has worked to both slow them and make them stronger.

The stories will make you mad but they’ll also inspire you.


On Dr. Brittany Cooper’s book:

Brittney’s book invites the question of what it takes to meet Audre Lorde’s challenge: how do we focus our anger with precision? Through a range of personal stories about becoming a feminist, navigating friendships and romance and the white-washed shoals of pop culture, as well as contending with the limits of white feminists and the legacy of white feminism, Brittney demonstrates what it means to harness anger as a superpower.

Eloquent rage keeps us all honest and accountable with her provocative, intelligent thinking.

Unlikely to be able to read all three in the time frame, I decided I’d slow read Lorde’s essays and read the other two when paperback versions came out. In the meantime, I entered a competition asking readers who’d watched the interview between these women discussing their books, to answer the following question:

QuestionWhat surprised you about this conversation around anger and how it’s perceived differently depending on who is expressing it?

My Response: First of all I was surprised to be given the opportunity to listen to such a high calibre conversation from within the comfort of one of my favourite online dwelling places – Goodreads!

The whole conversation around the perception of anger depending on who is expressing it surprised me as it articulated what so many of us have felt, experienced, witnessed and NOT been able to articulate, and I loved that they addressed that question of voice and gave kudos to listening and learning.

It just made me want to share this with all women and read both their books! Thank you so much for bringing this opportunity to those of us far, far away to listen, I hope there will be many more.

And since I now find that I am indeed one of the winners and will eventually be receiving copies of the two books mentioned above, I am doing what I said I would do and sharing this enlightening conversation between two eloquent writer’s voices and look forward to being able to share more when I’ve read their works.

Please do have a listen to the brief conversation below that inspired this post, and if you’re interested, join in with me to read their books over the coming months. My attempt to review Audre Lorde’s essays to follow.

Click Below to Buy a Copy:

Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider

Dr. Brittany Cooper’s Eloquent Rage

Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad



8 thoughts on “How Sister Outsider Lead to a Chat Between Eloquent Rage and Good and Mad

  1. Fascinating, thank you for sharing this Claire. I’ll definitely watch the discussion and track down these books. Anger generally and especially female anger is perceived so negatively, it will be interesting to think about how that energy can be used constructively.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you do watch it, I’m happy to be able to follow this book club and be more aware of the works that are coming out, addressing age-old issues that seem to be reaching a crescendo or hopefully even a turning point today. I think there is a strong need for change, coming from groups that have been hindered in their progress for a long time, but that it will take a long time for the power structures to reflect that change or even allow it, while they continue to feel threatened by it, rather than see its strength and merge with it, allow it to influence the way we manage the world. Voices coming together in understanding and learning how to be supportive of one another, listening and learning will help I’m sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I used Audre Lorde’s work to provide a theoretical framework for my teaching on black feminism in Britain last year, but I hadn’t heard of these other two books – they both sound fascinating! Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fascinating Laura, I loved reading Audre Lorde’s essays and wish there had been more of it, not only her thoughts on black feminism, but also her perceptions from her travels to countries outside the US, which differ from the narrative within, from the media perceptions that most take for granted, but aren’t reflective of what one might encounter in person. I thought it interesting that her collection was book-ended by two such works, her visit to Russia/Uzbekistan and finally at the end to her mother’s birthplace Grenada.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Audre Lorde has it exactly right: anger needs to be “focused with precision” to become “a powerful source of energy serving progress and change.” Too often this energy is dissipated in violence and fails to serve its true purpose.

    I hope women who are starting to own and give voice to their anger don’t imitate the historically masculine way and start to act violently out of hatred and fear. We have to harness the amazing feminine power of endurance to turn our anger into compassionate, wise action, guarding and protecting what is still developing until the time becomes ripe for it to be born. It’s really a human problem, THE major problem of our time, to which women can and must contribute our unique experiences if a better future is to arise. The time of suffering in silence is over, now how can our voices become most effective?

    Congrats on winning these books, they all sound great!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congrats on winning copies of the two books, Claire! Looking forward to your review of Lorde’s collection as well. She’s an engaging thinker and lucid writer, and I think you’ll enjoy Traister’s book more already having read Sister Outsider.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Michael, it’s rare that these offers are made outside the US, so I was surprised and delighted to win copies, though I intended to read them eventually. I love that the two authors came together to discuss their books in the context of Audre Lorde’s work.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Sister Outsider, Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (1984) – Word by Word

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