All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
“All too often women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget. In actuality, when we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm’s way.”
I spent a decent amount of time being embarrassed that I hadn’t read bell hooks. As I got older my collection of what I considered serious Black woman literature was growing but bell hooks remained in my mental TBR pile.
Year after year I vowed I would add some of her work to my cart but somehow reached the ripe old age of twenty-seven and still hadn’t read any. As someone who was always digging through the crates at second-hand bookshops, I was surprised I never stumbled across her in the bins.
I now believe that is a testament to her creating work that readers like to hold onto. It was only after a friend personally testified to the impact of hooks, All About Love that I finally went online and paid full price.
From the title, I expected introspective work on romantic love and self-love. I was mostly interested in the latter. A wiser version of all the self-help books that already lived on my shelves.
The work went deeper than that, hooks provided insight on how love and the lack of love shape every aspect of our lives. As a woman living in a world determined to tell me that genuine love is hard to come by hooks pushes aside that notion. Love doesn’t skip over us. As a culture, we choose to skip over love.
From the opening, hooks discussed the murky definitions of love and forces the reader to ask, “What is my definition of love?” After that, she smoothly dives into childhood.
I was surprised by the segue as I typically associate love with grown-up romantic feelings or familial love, steeped in obligation, duty, care, and affection. It was fitting that a book all about love started with the place where we learn how to love. She asserts:
I reread this paragraph more than once, struck by the message. It’s been said, that what we see as children is critical in setting the stage for how we love and expect to be loved. hooks goes beyond that, by examining what we are denied as children, our true feelings, are just as damaging as poor examples of love.
After childhood, again I expected the book to delve into romantic love. She continues to push aside what I think I should be getting from the book by showing me that love should be permeating every facet of my life and behavior. It should not just exist in the romantic or familial notion.
There are a few parts that feel oversimplified. For example, hooks discussed honesty as a pillar of love stating, “ Honesty and openness is always the foundation of insightful dialogue.”
While I agree with the sentiment I feel as if she glossed over how difficult it can be to truly be honest with others without hurting feelings. She gives bad gift-giving and not wanting to attend functions as an example but those are small acts of honesty.
I believe that lies are always unnecessary but untold truths can be dicey territory. Throughout it all her message is consistent. Love is not a feeling, it’s an action.
Would I suggest this book?
Yes. This book is not a quick or light read. It’s one that made me stick my fingers between the pages and pause. Sometimes I would reread a paragraph two or three times until the meaning sunk in.
The book doesn’t provide the reader with a neatly bulleted list of how to spot love. Rather it explores where love can exist, where it can’t, and how we interact with love. Rest In Peace to bell hooks and thank you for the work that lives forever.
Bonus: bell hooks Interview (1999)
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