Books by bell hooks

GRUMP GROAN GROWL by bell hooks
Released: April 8, 2008

"GRUMP / GROAN / GROWL / BAD MOOD / on the prowl." This deceptively simple picture book by masters of that form encourages readers to overcome their funks by putting them "inside" and letting them "slide." Raschka's broad ink strokes and splashy watercolors depict a curly-haired moppet and a personified bad mood, in the form of a similarly coiffed beast with pointy triangle teeth and a feline tail and claws—a Wild Thing as if drawn by a child. Colors modulate from heated yellows and oranges to cool blues and greens as the child learns to accommodate his monster mood, and the thick lines of the hand-lettered text form pictorial elements around which child and bad mood engage in a highly choreographed dance. While not as narrative as Sendak's masterpiece, this offering's emotional punch comes from the same source, young children's fear of their own powerful feelings. The metaphor here may immediately elude its literal-minded audience, but like its predecessor, its power goes straight to the viscera in a way that will resonate for a long, long time. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
SKIN AGAIN by bell hooks
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

"Skip this, and buy another copy of Yo? Yes! (Picture book. 4-7)"
Snake(skin) and onion(skin) form the illustrative leitmotifs in this over-intellectualized musing on skin color. Read full book review >
Homemade Love by bell hooks
Released: Dec. 1, 2002

There is no plot in this paean to parental unconditional love, but one isn't needed; the bold design and bright colors infuse enough energy into the soothing message to keep readers and listeners hooked. Creatively placed, plum-colored type in a variety of sizes coupled with lively, stylized illustrations of a very-well-loved "Girlpie" and her parents convey the idea that parents love their children all the time, even when children make mistakes. Girlpie's clothes reflect what's going on; when she makes a mess, her blue dress is decorated with yellow sad faces. When her parents forgive her and hug her, it's all smiley faces. When her father swings her high up in the air, her dress is adorned with clouds and planes. The brief text includes short sentences and sentence fragments, and begins with a litany of loving, homemade nicknames: "Mama calls me Girlpie. Her sweet sweet. Daddy's honey bun chocolate dew drop." Renowned writer and feminist theorist hooks gets Girlpie's voice exactly right, and puts her finger on just what every child is most concerned with: will my parents love me even when I'm bad? What about when the lights go out at bedtime? The surety of her parents' love comforts Girlpie even as she falls asleep; "Memories of arms that hold me . . . No need to fear the dark place." This joyful, loving African-American family is a model for all families to emulate. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
BE BOY BUZZ by bell hooks
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

The creators of Happy to Be Nappy (1999) return with a fine companion paean to boy-ness. "I be boy. / All bliss boy. / All fine beat. All beau boy. / Beautiful. / All bad boy beast. / All boy." Hooks's spare text celebrates the many aspects of being a boy, from running and jumping to sitting still and dreaming, the chopped-off declarative sentences creating a jumpy flow that embodies the pent-up energy of preschoolers. Raschka's equally spare illustrations appear on a background of terra-cotta paper, and feature brown-skinned boys pictured as heads and limbs emerging from amorphous clothing depicted as short white lines overlaid with circles and jags of colored lines. The energy and movement conveyed by these lines, complemented by irregular tight boxy squiggles that appear floating on the page, enhances the energetic rhythm of the text. The words march across the page, varying in size and placement to complete the sense of irregular bursts of energy. For the most part, the boy figures appear without relation to one another, with two major exceptions: in one spread—"All boy. Hug me close. Don't let me down"—a boy appears wrapped in the embrace of a nurturing adult; in the next, two boys—"All boy. Big open heart. Sweet mind"—appear with elongated arms joining to create one big circle, harmoniously enclosing two of the boxy energy-squiggles. In all, a pleasing and affirmative visual and textual interpretation of what it means to be a little boy: be boy buzz, indeed. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
ALL ABOUT LOVE by bell hooks
Released: Jan. 1, 2000

Love is the answer, but it's also the question posed by a cynical generation "bombarded by [love's] failure." Though the dilemma is not solved here, huzzah for a valiant try. Love, these days, is a four-letter word that has lost as much of its meaning as those other familiar four-letter epithets. Lowercase cultural-critic hooks (English/CCNY; Remembered Rapture, 1999, etc.) tries to resuscitate love's meaning, exploring love in its history, its definitions, its cultural context, and its values. Here is love betrayed by both men (who may lie to achieve dominance) and women (who may lie to manipulate). For no matter how slight the untruth or secret, lying always does damage to love, says hooks. Her counsel: Use affirmations to bolster self-acceptance, if necessary, and replace negative thinking with positive thinking. If the "love ethic" is present in every aspect of life, we will treat one another with care, respect, knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate. Calling on commentators as diverse as Marianne Williamson, Nathaniel Branden, Erich Fromm, Alice Miller, Saint Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Eric Butterworth, and M. Scott Peck, hooks buttresses her arguments in chapters devoted to the alienation of greed (she cites President Clinton as a victim of greed for hedonistic pleasure); the power of love in community and between individuals (the Mars and Venus dichotomy is about power, not about love); and dealing with death and loss (choose life, but accept death with love). A final chapter describes the angels among us, sometimes in human form—perhaps as Alice Miller's "enlightened witness"'sometimes as pure spirit. The recent cultural fascination with angels indicates a religious reawakening in America, hooks believes, and the angels are saying that "love [is] our true destiny." A spiritual handbook, weighty with platitudes, yet refreshed with some thoughtful analyses that offer seekers a way to explore love's meaning, or meaninglessness. (Author tour) Read full book review >
HAPPY TO BE NAPPY by bell hooks
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

PLB 0-7868-2377-1 Happy To Be Nappy (32 pp.; $14.95; PLB $15.49; Sept.; 0-7868-0427-0; PLB 0-7868-2377-1): Intentionally or not, this short paean to natural, in-all-its-glory hair constitutes a spirited response to the voices raised in protest over Carolivia Herron's Nappy Hair (1997). Raschka pairs hook's song praising "girlpie hair . . . for hands to touch and play!/Hair to take the gloom away" with impressionistic compositions of exuberantly dancing children, all sporting inky black locks rendered with calligraphic brush strokes. The big daubs of background color seem to dance and spin with the figures, visual music to match the verbal. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1999

A moving testimony to passion for the written word, and to the inherent difficulties of becoming a purveyor of both language and ideas. Cultural critic, memoirist (Wound of Passion: A Writing Life, 1997), and professor of English (City Coll.) hooks's love of language has spurred her to explore various genres and match content to form in a way that most academics do not. "Any writer" she says, "who strives to be true to artistic integrity surrenders to the shape the work takes of its own accord." In Remembered Rapture, her 17th book, she again resists categorization, fusing autobiography with cultural essay, refracting a larger social dynamic through the prism of her experience as a writer who also happens to be a black woman. She reveals her own story in order to make points about creativity, publishing, criticism—even the intersection of spirituality and politics. The word "rapture" speaks to the reality of writing as a solitary meditation: "In that moment of grace when the words come, when I surrender to their ecstatic power, there is no witness," she says. Except that hooks expertly witnesses her own process. This volume functions not only as a testament to the importance of creative expression, but also as a commentary on the prevailing market forces that determine the viability of that work. And hooks, in her usual, forthright and engaging style, makes plain her opinions: on the dearth of nonfiction by black women authors, the role of race in the critical reception of new work, and the cynicism of the publishing industry. What could have been a caustic, scathing collection of essays, however, proves to be just the opposite: generous, open, and inspiring. Not every essay here offers that visceral jolt of critical insight, but then hooks is writing about the creative process as much as the state of publishing; her success lies in her ability to transmit the joy of writing well. And she does. (Author tour) Read full book review >
WOUNDS OF PASSION by bell hooks
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

In her 15th book, hooks continues the memoir she began in Bone Black (1996). The little southern black girl who dreamed of being a writer from the age of ten is now a young woman entering Stanford University, away from home, from the South and Jim Crow laws, for the first time in her life. At 19 she takes a lover, Mack, an older black intellectual and poet, and begins work on the book that, 11 years later, would be her first published work, Ain't I a Woman? The relationship with Mack is at the center of this book, which is otherwise a review of all of hooks's usual concerns—race, gender, sexuality and desire, money and its uses and abuses, aesthetics, poetry. Her affair with Mack is turbulent, with an occasional undercurrent of violence that hearkens back to the relationship between her mother and father delineated in the previous book. hooks eschews conventional chronological structure to tell the story of her young adulthood and coming of age as a writer. Instead, she repeatedly moves back and forth in time, in chapters that are often organized thematically, shifting from third-person reflections on her young self to first-person recollections that move uneasily between past and present tenses. The result is an ungainly and repetitive hodgepodge of tones that's most effective when it's most conventional. At its best, the book contains flashes of insight that serve as a vivid reminder of how astute and downright brilliant a social critic and thinker the author is (as in a passing observation about the corrosive effects of ``quiet drinking'' in a family). But too much of this volume is either self-congratulatory gush (no author should write about how ``daring and difficult'' the book at hand is), or painfully misjudged efforts at poetic effect. Only a writer as good and determinedly idiosyncratic as hooks could have produced a book as misguided as this. Read full book review >
BONE BLACK by bell hooks
Released: Oct. 1, 1996

Quite a departure from her usual work, this slender memoir allows African-American feminist writer hooks (Killing Rage, 1995, etc.) to look back on her childhood. Although hooks has always drawn very effectively on her past in her trenchant social and political essays, this book is the first of her works to deal at length with what it was like growing up black in the South in the 1950s. It is also, she writes, about her struggle to create a self and an ``identity distinct from and yet inclusive of the world around me . . . a rich magical world of southern black culture that was sometimes paradisiacal and at other times terrifying.'' Telling her story in brief vignettes, hooks illuminates each of the elements that composed that world, describing her parents, torn, sometimes to the point of violence, by the pressures that married life brings; an extended family that provided her with room to dream at the same time that it fed her a range of conflicting cues about how to live; a black subculture that instilled a series of painful lessons in color-driven self-evaluation; and finally, a white majority culture that could offer both the benefits of literature and the punishments of racial discrimination. As a child hooks was a loner, a little girl who loved books but who possessed ``too much spirit'' to suit her father. Fortunately, her extended family offered her many female role models: Grandmothers, aunts, and others helped prepare her for life in a harsh world. Alternating between first- and third-person narratives, Bone Black is as much about deciphering the secret languages and sign systems of adulthood, about learning how the larger world works, as it is about creating one's identity. The narrative voice is oddly disembodied, somehow disturbingly disengaged; there are moments of real force and pain here, but they are not sustained. A book of great intelligence, Bone Black's power is somewhat diffused by this reticence of tone. Read full book review >
KILLING RAGE by bell hooks
Released: Sept. 19, 1995

Any new work by hooks (Art on My Mind, p. 534, etc.) is welcome, but her latest is a somewhat diffuse effort. From its promising two-edged title and an introduction in which hooks convincingly talks of the way in which black women are discouraged from ``talking race,'' one expects this to be another excellent counter to the welter of essentialist, identity-politics drivel that gets written on race all too often these days. And at many points, hooks delivers. She offers some cogent analyses of the interplay of black rage and white denial, urging people to move beyond mere anger to active opposition to the structures of white supremacy that govern this culture. She dismisses the mournful white voices who absolve themselves of blame by saying, ``It's a racist society. We're all racists,'' rather than struggling for change. On the other hand, this is an often infuriating book. While hooks is a master at weaving together a series of essays so that each flows into the next, too often these pieces feel underdeveloped. Tantalizing wisps of ideas are introduced but not followed, and a certain irritating tone of self-congratulation mars several pieces, most notably the essay ``Marketing Blackness,'' in which hooks pats herself on the back for being the only black intellectual she knows who is interested in addressing the role of class in black society. On the other hand, she really is one of the only writers and critical thinkers in America today who is addressing the race-class-gender nexus in such thoughtful and coherent terms, and the two essays that close the book are genuinely moving and insightful. Too often, Killing Rage feels like it's preaching to the choir, and a bit perfunctory at that, but there are some moments of real insight, as one would expect from hooks. (Author tour) Read full book review >
ART ON MY MIND by bell hooks
Released: June 15, 1995

Political theorist and critic hooks continues the work of Black Looks (not reviewed), exploring the politics of representation, aesthetics, and the place of the African-American woman artist. This collection of 18 essays in art criticism and five interviews with prominent black women artists is hooks's response to the paucity of African-American art critics, particularly women. Drawing effectively on her personal experience of art as both maker and viewer, hooks urges that we take art seriously as a focus for struggle, emphasizing its transformative power. At the same time, she eschews essentialist arguments that would reduce all black art to protest art, arguments that have repeatedly been narrowed to discussions of ``good'' and ``bad'' images. Instead, she calls for ``a revolution in the way we see, the way we look.'' What is at stake here, she says, is nothing less than control over the representation of the self; she points to the empowering nature of personal photography as an example. The book itself is an odd creature. The first half is a rocky road full of academic artcrit jargon of the kind usually found in the pages of artforum (which is where one of these pieces first appeared), and the early dialogues, with Carrie Mae Weems and Alison Saar, are unsatisfying, with hooks dominating the conversations. But the second half of the book is a return to form for one of the most astute cultural and political writers in the country today. Essays on black vernacular architecture, representation of the black male body, and the creative process of women artists are powerful and concise, and the dialogues with Emma Amos, Margo Humphreys, and particularly LaVerne Wells-Bowie are a real contribution to our understanding of the situation of black women artists. It is impossible to imagine hooks writing a book devoid of interest, and the second half of this one is excellent indeed. Read full book review >