So many amazing book clubs have been hosted over this time of self-isolation. Now summer is coming, and what better way to relax than to educate and fall in love with some of the best stories of love, strength and perseverance.
I’m so excited to be featuring books I have personally read which have been written by some of the most beautiful Black authors of our time. My first pick is All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks
Bell Hooks, American Author
Bell Hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins) is a highly acclaimed American Author, as well as Social Activist, Feminist and Professor who was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. She has written more than 17 books, including All About Love: New Visions (my personal recommendation).
Photo: Bell Hooks Institute
All About Love: New Visions, Bell Hooks
Right from the Preface I was hooked on this all too relatable tale of love; defining love, seeking love and the wondering of love. Bell describes a feeling of love then loss and how to navigate years of thinking about how love’s absence in her life led her to believe how important it was.
Hooks delves into the absence of love. I found this fascinating and very introspective. If we experience love’s absence in childhood, it can create confusion about care vs. love and how to define and separate the two. If there had been a distinct definition of love in her childhood, it would not have garnered the search and the exploration of how to be more loving. I think everyone can relate to how they feel about being loved as a child. Parents aren’t perfect, and they too, bring their own emotional scarring into the picture when they are raising children. This passage reinforces that no matter what our prior wounds, children need constant, positive reinforcement to know that love shouldn’t be associated with punishment.
The Process of Self-Recovery
There are so many thoughtful discussions throughout the book. One being the process of self-recovery. Self-recovery from love which was never received in childhood. The healing process requires the reader to explore what love meant in childhood, determining why we all have different definitions of love, and encouraging a new definition, which will foster the ability to become a more loving person. Her care vs. love perspective is one that allowed me to really think about past relationships as far back as childhood. We can be cared for and not loved, and this opens up a whole understanding of being a loving person as an adult and how we do that.
Intimate Relationships Mimic Our Learned Behavior
So why do we choose certain people to have intimate relationships with? Bell Hooks tells of something all too familiar to me about choosing men who do not care to be loving in a relationship. In doing so, there was the practice of giving love but not receiving it. Because this was a learned behavior in childhood, there is safety in that practice which channels this so called ‘like attracts like’ circumstance. Choosing relationships of care vs. being loving is because that is what makes us feel safer. There is no risk involved.
Love is as Love Does
From the beginning, Hooks declares the definition of love as it begins as a child ~ Love is as Love Does. For instance, if a child is neglected or abused, and then told that they are loved, this negates that so called ‘love’. Love and abuse do not go hand in hand. Bell sites we must constantly use care and confirmation when raising children so that, as parents, we learn that we don’t need to teach discipline through punishment. Children need love, acknowledgement, respect and the idea that they have rights too, leading Hooks to show the reader the most important lesson: without justice there is no love.
Honesty: Be True to Love
Hooks describes in this chapter why lies take shape as children. As a child, some begin to start lying because they’re afraid that if they tell the truth about something they did wrong, then they’ll disappoint their parents or are afraid they’ll get punished. I found my son doing this recently, and I asked him “Why aren’t you telling me the truth? You know you can tell me anything.” I quickly found out he didn’t want to get sent to his room. I had to explain to him that lying is wrong. You always have to own up to your mistakes and if you continue to lie, then no one will believe you when you are telling the truth.
Consequently, as adults, the same thing is true. I related to Hooks as she described many men in her life who lied as a way to avoid confrontation or take responsibility for inappropriate behavior. Personally, I’ve always found lying to be more ego driven, to negate the notion of being the so called ‘bad guy’. There have been times I’ve begged someone to tell me the truth, and no matter how much I pleaded (because I needed closure) this person still lied. It became so much about this person’s ego, that my feelings as a person didn’t even matter. Having open and honest dialogue shows accountability and respect no matter how much this might hurt the other person. So what is the foundation of intimacy says Hooks? Trust. And I couldn’t agree more.
Greed: Simply Love
What prevents us as a society from love? Hooks describes the force of the “me” culture. It’s the thought of consumption turning into greed because there is such a lack of love present it fills the void of any love needed. It leads me to think about the society we live in now. Even if we think we are not overindulgent or addictive, there is this constant need for approval. Establishing this jarring social media driven environment that we all seem to fall victim to. What messages are we sending? How can we focus less on self and more on spreading love messages?
Hooks also talks about addiction in more detail. There is no love when you become an addict. The need for a drug, or substance never ends, which turns into greed. The subject then transitions into wealth and the need for more and more: greedy consumption allows dehumanization to become possible. Her thoughts on negating greed come down to one thing: live simply.
Living simply provides us the opportunity to make room for love. By turning off our cell phones, or shutting off the television, it gives respect to a relationship. Allowing our children the time and respect of our full attention. Living simply makes love simple. It opens up a love portal without the static. We can all contribute to living more simply. It has never become more clear to me than now that the world is begging us to do so. Live with love. Live with less. Love with more.
Bell Hooks no question has captured my attention and allowed me to look inward to understand my own definition of love. To think about how I can love better in my relationships and with myself. Hooks has asked to look into the eyes of children and take a step back and think about our actions in a way that has never been thought about before. How do children define love? What would they say about your love? How can we make sure they feel more loved?
Her thoughts come down to one important principle in which she proclaims, “The word love is most often defined as a noun, yet…we would all love better if we used it as a verb.”
You can find All About Love: New Visions here:
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