Lorde was born and raised in New York City as the child of West Indian immigrants. She was educated at Hunter College, also spending a year at the National University of Mexico. For more than a decade she was head librarian at Town School Library in New York. Then, in 1968, she published her first volume of poetry and spent a transformative year as poet in residence at historically black Tougaloo College in Mississippi. Her next book, Cables to Rage (1970), acknowledged her homosexuality. Thereafter she would call herself "a black feminist lesbian mother poet," and her work began to combine intimate self-reflection and political prophecy. The result is protest poetry focused at once on personal and social transformation. Her nonfiction prose has also had wide impact, from her account of her struggle with cancer in The Cancer Journals (1980) to her fictionalized autobiography Zami (1982) and her collection of essays Sister Outsider (1984).