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Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood Paperback – Unabridged, October 15, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

bell hooks, who teaches English at New York's City College, is well-known as an abrasive, take-no-prisoners feminist cultural critic. In this moving memoir of her childhood she explains the roots of her forceful and rigorous attitude to life and literature. She grew up in a poor Southern black family, an heir to poverty and racism, surrounded by people too wrapped up in their own struggles to offer much help to her. She writes here of her mother's suffering in an abusive marriage, of her siblings' rejection of her for being "different," of her own painful discovery of sexuality, and of how she found escape through books. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Just as hooks, author of several books on issues of race and sex (Killing Rage, etc.) has idiosyncratically taken a lower-case name, her memoir, written in imagistic three-page segments, takes an unconventional approach. Aiming "to conjure a rich magical world of southern black culture," she avoids conventional signifiers like place names and dates and even shifts between a first-person and a third-person voice, referring to herself as "she." Add such techniques to simple, present-tense syntax, and the results can sound precious at times. Still, hooks is right to declare that "[n]ot enough is known about the experience of black girls in our society," so her effort deserves close reading. She struggles with a toy Barbie, preferring a brown doll. She finds sustenance in a rich black community?though one grandmother hates dark skin. She turns to religion and she loves the library. Her mother and older sister treat her menarche with more scorn than sympathy, but she discovers on her own the private pleasure of sexuality. There are scenes of the growing young woman learning about jazz, developing a crush, seeing her parents fight, finding one white teacher who seems unafraid of black kids. In the end, this book leaves us with a familiar but not unsatisfying image, that of a sensitive youth finding in books deliverance from "the wilderness of spirit I am living in."
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805055126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805055122
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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 now a Distinguished Professor of English at City College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the author of more than seventeen books, including All About Love: New Visions; Remembered Rapture: 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By jpodolski@aol.com on April 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
I just finished bell hooks' Bone Black and I had to write something to someone. I have been reading autobiographies for a thesis for the past few months and have found a wealth of styles. None, however, can compare to the complex simplicity of Ms. hooks. Her language is a melding of childhood innocence and adult knowledge. For example, when she says "Only grown-ups think that the things children say come our of nowhere. We know they come from the deepest parts of ourselves" (24), she is able to consider both perspectives because she has lived both. It is touching that she chooses to identify with the children. Ms. hooks allows the reader, though her narritive switches, to follow her search for a home. Through personal and impersonal (first vs. third person) accounts, we come to symapthize with her exile from her family. In the end, when she notes that she "belong[s] in this place of words. This is my home" (183), the reader can only sigh in agreement. Her words are her home, both in Bone Black and later feminist theory. The magic is in the words.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
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It's always a fascinating pleasure to see behind the lives of such brilliantly outspoken and dedicated social critics like bell hooks.
Although the story and it's details always belong to the author's experience, a memoire lends itself to the reader's unique perception. This book brought me back to childhood and slammed my heart against words for feelings I'd never been able to identify while growing through my own "girlhood". Some of the human universe's deepest and most heartfelt emotions of family, sexuality, feminine and personal identity, jealousy, rage, contempt, and spirituality are permitted to ooze from the pages of this multi-faceted story.
A wonderful trip through time for all of us who claw scratching through every day of our dreams and our lives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A.J. Hills on May 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
bell hooks is known for her many books on the politics of art and culture. This addition is more about the processing of becoming a mature thoughtful writer. Her road was a painful one but all that she experienced fortified her work process and personality. There is some beautiful visual writing and depth in bell hooks' bone black.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stephen O. Murray VINE VOICE on August 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
At first, I found the uniformly sized (3-page) chunks of invoking with stripped-down sentences in bell hook's Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood somewhat affectless and very structurally arbitrary. Hemingway sprang to mind, but then I thought of Stein's syntax (and the role she claimed in forming Hemingway's style). Hooks's repetitions are more subtle, and perhaps her prose is, too, because eventually I found it compelling. The pain of being different while young and vulnerable came through the chilly prose.
What she describes of female complicity in male privilege is particularly frightening and compelling. She experienced little female solidarity, being rejected by her five sisters and never able to please her mother (who agreed with her father that her spirit needed to be broken).
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Shannon on January 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
I couldn't stop turning the pages of this brutally honest tale of a black, southern, woman who grows up knowing that she is diffrent. And therefore, her life will be diffrent.
This little book gives an intimate look, at the writer some say is the most prolific writer on race, gender and class. hooks, uses words extremely cautiously whick makes this piece on you simply can't put down.
Eat this book!
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. While some were put of by the simplicity..I welcomed it!
It was memories of girlhood, written at times by that little girl who in fact was wise beyond her years. The stories are interesting and a few of them remind me of my own childhood. At times, I felt Ms. Hooks was writing about me :)This is similary to a bio,written in a different but better style.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A life story with many facets that many can identify with. And those identifying need not be black. It is encouraging to know that some blacks and some whites have some experiences in common. When this is understood healing can begin. Well written and easy to read with this engaging theme. Worth reading.
That said, I would not have read it had I seen the author's bio first.
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bell hooks is an amazing storyteller and the telling of her own story is quite remarkable. While she's been through a lot of different experiences, both good and bad, her experiences are wrapped in the love her family always had for her.
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