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Other titles in the Bell Hooks Love Trilogy series:
All About Love - New Visionsby Bell Hooks
Synopses & Reviews
For those confounded and intrigued by the nature of love, "All About Love unravels its meaning and explores the ways in which it is most often undervalued, ignored, and misunderstood. With unwavering insight, clarity, and candor, bell hooks offers radical new visions of love and its force in our lives. Exploring love in its many incarnations, cultural critic and feminist theorist bell hooks challenges some of our most deeply held assumptions and reveals the potential of a life-changing reassessment of love.
"All About Love reveals the ways in which love can transform us both personally and culturally, how — through love — we possess the power to end conflicts within ourselves and within our communities. Hooks asserts that it is never too late to return to love, to speak with our hearts. The power of such transformation resides within each of us.
Questions for Discussion
hooks describes the inspiration and solace she finds in graffiti art declaring, "The search for love continues even in the face of great odds" (p. xv). Where have you found similar signs that have restored your faith in love?
Historically, how have the demands of love for women been different from those for men? How have they differed for adults and children? What does hooks suggest about these distinctions?
Discuss the way in which hooks uses her personal experience throughout this book. How does her personal experience enhance her assertions? Which vignette do you find particularly meaningful?
hooks describes the allure oflying in relation to the allure of power. What are the lies you tell to feel powerful? How do our concepts of power — born from the patriarchal culture we inhabit — keep us from love? What role does greed play and where does it come from?
hooks probes the gap between the values many people "claim to hold and their willingness to do the work of connecting thought and action, theory and practice" (p. 90). How does our culture reward those who nurture this gap? What changes would we have to make in society to nurture and inspire the closing of this gap?
If we must sacrifice "our old selves in order to be changed by love" (p. 188), what is it that we're giving up?
Although she warns against attempting to return to the past rather than forging ahead, hooks advocates repairing and restoring family bonds. Why is this an important goal? How do these bonds enable us to live with love in all areas of our lives?
What are the political ramifications of hooks's visions of love? Is love a political issue?
Look over the chapter titles in "All About Love. If you were to add a chapter, what would it be?
Why do we fear love? Are we more afraid of surrendering ourselves to love or of living without love? What sacrifices does love require? What relief and salve can love offer? Is it possible to be too damaged, too wounded to love?
How has "All About Love enhanced, contradicted, challenged, altered your vision of love?
From one of America's most revered thinkers offers radical new ways to think about love, and examines the relationship between love and sexuality, and the connections between the public and the private.
The men in my life have always been the folks who are wary of using the word "love" lightly. They are wary because they believe women make too much of love. And they know that what we think love means is not always what they believe it means. Our confusion about what we mean when we use the word "love" is the source of our difficulty in loving. If our society had a commonly held understanding of the meaning of love, the act of loving would not be so mystifying. Dictionary definitions of love tend to emphasize romantic love, defining love first and foremost as "profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, especially when based on sexual attraction." Of course, other definitions let the reader know one may have such feelings within a context that is not sexual. However, deep affection does not really adequately describe love's meaning.
The vast majority of books on the subject of love work hard to avoid giving clear definitions. In the introduction to Diane Ackerman's "A Natural History of Love "she declares "Love is the great intangible." A few sentences down from this she suggests: "Everyone admits that love is wonderful and necessary, yet no one can agree on what it is." Coyly, she adds, "We use the word love in such a sloppy way that it can mean almost nothing or absolutely everything." No definition ever appears in her book that would help anyone trying to learn the art of loving. Yet she is not alone in writing of love in ways that cloud our understanding. When the very meaning of the word is cloaked in mystery, it should not come as a surprise that most people find it hard to define what they mean when they use the word "love."
Imagine how mucheasier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word "love" is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb. I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word "love," and was deeply relieved when I found one in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's classic self-help book "The Road Less Traveled," first published in 1978. Echoing the work of Erich Fromm, he defines love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." Explaining further, he continues, "Love is as love does. Love is an act of will-namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love." Since the choice must be made to nurture growth, this definition counters the more widely accepted assumption that we love instinctually.
Everyone who has witnessed the growth process of a newborn child from the moment of birth on sees clearly that before language is known, before the identity of caretakers is recognized, babies respond to affectionate care. Usually they respond with sounds or looks of pleasure. As they grow older they respond to affectionate care by giving affection, cooing at the sight of a welcomed caretaker. Affection is only one ingredient of love. To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients-care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication. Learning faulty definitions of love when we are quite young makes it difficult to be loving as we grow older. We start out committed to the right path but go in the wrongdirection. Most of us learn early on to think of love as a feeling. When we feel deeply drawn to someone, we cathect with them, that is, we invest feelings or emotion in them. That process of investment wherein a loved one becomes important to us is called "cathexis." In his book Peck rightly emphasizes that most of us "confuse cathecting with loving." We all know how often individuals feeling connected to someone through the process of cathecting insist that they love the other person even if they are hurting or neglecting them. Since their feeling is that of cathexis, they insist that what they feel is love.
About the Author
Bell Hooks is a cultural critic, feminist theorist, and writer. Celebrated as one of our nation's leading public intellectual by The Atlantic Monthly, as well as one of Utne Reader's "100 Visionaries Who Could Change Your Life," she is a charismatic speaker who divides her time among teaching, writing, and lecturing around the world. Previously a professor in the English departments at Yale University and Oberlin College, hooks is the author of more than 17 books, including All About Love: New Visions; RememberedRapture: The Writer at Work; Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life; Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood; Killing Rage: Ending Racism; Art on My Mind: Visual Politics; and Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life. She lives in New York City.
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