Study Guide

Hanging Fire Family

By Audre Lorde


Adolescence is a tough time for, you know, adolescents. It's also an equally tough time for their families. Whether they are pushing boundaries by staying out past curfew, or locking themselves in their room to examine their pimples and refusing to come out, teenagers can drive their parents completely up the wall. That's the stereotype, at least. In "Hanging Fire," we are presented with a very different situation: a teenager who is being completely ignored by her mom. (Her dad's not in the picture, or at least, not mentioned in the poem.) And our speaker's isolation from her mom is a serious problem. Our speaker's got concerns—real ones—and no one to listen to them. Open your bedroom door and talk to your daughter, momma (is what we wish we could tell her).

Questions About Family

  1. How does the mother's isolation from her daughter affect the speaker?
  2. Do you get a sense that the speaker has other family members (besides her mom) that she can talk to? What parts of the poem give you your ideas?
  3. Do you think that the danger that the speaker senses in the world is related to her distant relationship with her mom? Why or why not?

Chew on This

The speaker would be afraid of the world whether or not her mom was a real presence in her life; adolescence is a scary time, no matter what your relationship is with your family.

The speaker's fears are directly related to her relationship with her mother. Parental isolation causes major problems for teens (so come on, mom).

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