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The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love Hardcover – December 30, 2003

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A companion to We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity, hooks's 23rd book for adults is a fierce, quirky denunciation of patriarchy and a clarion call to the uncommitted to align themselves with visionary radical feminism. In 12 slim chapters, hooks examines the stages of a man's life, from babyhood through boyhood to the teenage years into manhood. She finds patriarchy plays a role in most socio-sexual ills, as boys and men seek alienating sex as a substitute for the love that often seems, because of demands on families that destroy them or keep them from forming, unavailable to men: "Sex, then, becomes for most men a way of self-solacing. It is not about connecting to someone else but rather releasing their own pain." The men who can lead us out of patriarchal chains are "men of color from poor countries, men who live in exile, men who have been victimized by imperialist male violence"-the Dalai Lama for example. While she calls Will Smith films such as Men in Black and Independence Day tools of the patriarchy, hooks saves her big guns for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, scornfully exposing them as foisted on us by "rich white American men" and no more than updated version of the British schoolboy books that fueled the fantasies of Victoria's empire. A better book to buy for children, she suggests, might be her own recent Be Bop Buzz. Hooks is always readable, but her takes on mass media here have a retro ring to them.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


George Weinberg author of Why Men Won't Commit Compelling study of the culture's unfairness to men. -- Review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; First Edition edition (December 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743456076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743456074
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #327,174 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

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By BookLover on September 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"The Will to Change" by bell hooks is one of the best books I have ever read. bell hooks gets to the heart of the ways in which most of us (men and women, people of all classes and races) are harmed by patriarchy, as well as exposing the ways in which we unconsciously replicate it in our personal lives. Her ideas are big enough to include all people who are struggling with division, oppression, and/or general un-wholeness and unhappiness, not just women. She suggests that the way to freedom is for us to love each other and support each other on our journies to wholeness. She clearly and consistently frames the struggle as one of hurting people yearning to be whole and free. This is a theory that is accessible to everyone - anyone who searches their heart, or just observes the society around them, can see that what she says is true. As a feminist who is married and loves men, I found her advice to be full of wisdom, with a refreshing lack of intellectual elitism.

After reading this wonderful work, I am more convinced than ever that heart and soul are the primary components of our future evolutionary path. Hats off to you, ms. hooks!
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54 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Jeffery Mingo on January 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
bell hooks states that feminists have not discussed how to improve the lives of men and this is her attempt. In 11 chapters, she details her ideas that men must be open to feminism and feminists must be open to men, that patriarchal masculinity is the problem, not males, and that much harm comes to the life of boys.
Professional critics have called this book that non-race-based equivalent to "We Real Cool." However, I'd say it's the male counterpart to hooks' "Communion." This book is an ideal tool for feminist women raising sons. It also may be a good introduction to feminism for progressive men or men who want to be progressive. hooks cites many canonical men's studies texts and progressive books on boys and men that many readers will find useful. (Again, it's a shame that this book lacks a bibliography, just like most of her most recent works.)
While this book discusses romantic love, that type of relationship is not the main issue here. Readers that have already heard enough about hooks' views on love from her autobiographies and recent works will find this refreshing. Many loving dynamics are detailed here. Most importantly, hooks discusses the troubles faced by little boys. I'm impressed that a childless writer is so devoted to children. This almost reminded me of Rosie O'Donnell's autobiography the way a grown woman is so concerned about minors.
I would say that I have three major complaints/critiques of her book. First, as much as she constantly assesses and promotes feminism, what comes through is that anti-oppression books can help men. Her gender analysis just happens to be her angle. A civil rights activist could have said that organizing could help men or a Communist discussing anti-classism could make the same argument that hooks makes here.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book. This needs to be recommended reading for all men. I'll probably give my son this when he's a teenager.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JerushaViolet on April 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book started with clear examples of what ms. hooks would like to see change, but about 2/3 of the way through shifted into arguing her case for what kind of change should happen and became very fuzzy. She has a theory, but I found myself wondering what she based her theory and what the change would look like, on. It got to be that she was just piling on to convince the reader that the form of her ideas was good and should be implemented, but never articulated how she arrived at her ideas, or what supported the formation of those ideas. Disappointing read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Duffyt3 on February 27, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was the first book I've read by bell hooks- I was previously familiar with her work, but hadn't yet read a full piece. A bit of context about me as a reader, because I think that's a very important aspect of how this book will be received: I'm a man who considers himself a feminist ally. I do buy into the idea of feminism as important for the health and well-being of not only women, but men as well, so some of my reaction to this book may lie in the fact that it speaks directly to my interests. I have some prior familiarity with mythopoetic men's movement books like "King, Warrior, Magician, Lover" and "Iron John", which hooks addresses. For me, as someone who is working to develop my sense of identity as a thoughtful, respectful, compassionate man, this book was exactly what I wanted at this point in my development.

If you're not familiar with bell hooks, she is a proponent of intersectionality - basically, the belief that privilege isn't necessarily a monolithic characteristic that lies only with specific groups, but rather a more fluid interaction between different characteristics of individuals as they relate to one another. A white woman and a black woman may both experience gender discrimination, but it may not be in the same way or to the same degree, based on the additional factor of race. (Don't take my explanation as airtight - I'm just trying to provide context.)

Given this philosophy, hooks is able to provide a keen inspection of the ways in which patriarchy not only benefits men, but also harms them. If you hold the unfortunately common (and mistaken) belief that feminism sees straight, white men as "the bad guy", hooks will skewer that.
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