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:
Question: What 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.
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