39 pages • 1 hour readbell hooks
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All About Love: New Visions (2000) is a book of essays by acclaimed American author and feminist scholar, bell hooks (hooks intentionally spelled her name with lowercase letters, which is recreated throughout this guide). hooks is best known for her feminist writings, many of which examine themes of race, class, gender, sexuality, and the intersections between these concepts. She first rose to literary prominence in 1981 with the publication of her first book of nonfiction, Ain’t I a Woman?, an exploration of Black womanhood in America.
hooks describes All About Love as a roadmap for readers that “tells us how to return to love” (xxix). Concerned about contemporary notions of love, hooks’s essays present “new ways to think about the art of loving, offering a hopeful, joyous vision of love’s transformative power” (xxix). Throughout the book, hooks includes anecdotes about her personal journey toward understanding and manifesting love while using the research of other scholars to support her theories. hooks remains steadfast in her belief in the power of love and, through her writing, invites readers to join her in the active, mindful pursuit of love.
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In the Preface to All About Love, hooks reflects on her complicated history with love and the overwhelming, and at times debilitating, grief caused by the lovelessness she experienced throughout both her childhood and adulthood. It was only once hooks began to heal from the trauma of her past that she was able to begin a new journey with love. hooks spent years of her life trying to recover the unconditional love she received only briefly as a child, in an effort to reclaim the sense of safety she felt as a little girl. The emotional pain hooks endured in the wake of lovelessness rendered her unable to effectively give or receive the love she needed. It was only when “that mourning ceased I was able to love again” (x).
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The book is divided into 13 essays, each closely examining a particular aspect of love and educating readers on both the complexities and pleasures of love. hooks investigates the nature of many different categories of love, such as familial love, romantic love, platonic love, and, importantly, self-love. By encouraging readers to part with traditional understandings about love—many of which are rooted in patriarchal schools of thought—hooks lays the foundation for readers to practice loving in new and more effective ways. By devising a methodology—a “love ethic”—that readers of all kinds can use as a road map on the difficult but fulfilling journey toward love, hooks demonstrates her innate belief that “everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well” (87).
Throughout the essays, hooks thoughtfully investigates the necessary elements of effective love practice, such as honesty, commitment, self-acceptance, and community. Constantly reminding readers that giving and receiving love is hard work, hooks also acknowledges the hardships of love practice, which may come in the form of fear, shame, grief, loneliness, or rejection. By addressing these hardships, hooks concedes that the decision to commit oneself to love takes courage. However daunting, these risks are necessary to take, for “as long as we are afraid of risk we cannot know love” (185).
Although the structure of the book and its citations to scholarly research make it an academic text, hooks’s use of first-person narration and her tendency to address her readers directly—often bringing the two parties in communion as “we”—allows for a warm and deeply intimate tone. This intimacy and direct invitation into hooks’s innermost thoughts, fears, and delights empowers readers to gather as a community and join her in the pursuit of love.
By bell hooks