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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (November 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805059105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805059106
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

African American women writers, being both black and female, face challenges that the rest of us might never have even considered. While this essay collection is ultimately a celebration of the writing life and of the writers author bell hooks (who signs her name with lower-case letters) cites as inspirational, it also illuminates the issues she and other black women writers have to contend with in their careers. Hooks has been criticized for, among other things, being incredibly prolific (she has been called "the Joyce Carol Oates of black feminist writing") and for her scope: "Black writers," says hooks, "always have difficulty gaining recognition for a body of work if anything we do is eclectic." Though hooks does take her critics to task, she is more concerned with confronting a system that seems determined to work against black women--and other minority--writers. She is critical of publishers for throwing the largest advances and promotional efforts at white male authors. She complains that "when writers from marginalized groups do work that is truly marvelous," the literary establishment is likely to see that work as a "rare exception." And she even rails against black women writers themselves, saying that "Nothing diminishes our efforts to gain a greater hearing for nonfiction by black women more than the severe dismissals of this work by black women."

Autobiography is one form of writing that hooks feels is particularly difficult for black women writers, most of whom come from families that never previously "had to think about whether a relative would write something about their lives." In fact, she says, autobiographical writing is troublesome for writers who do not "come from class backgrounds where there are rituals of public confession like psychoanalysis." As a child, says hooks, "talking openly outside the family about any aspect of family life was considered a form of treason." Now, though her family is proud of her and pleased that she has not forsaken her origins, she says, "writing about my life has created an emotional distance between me and my parents. An intimacy we once shared is gone." --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The 22 essays in cultural and literary critic hooks's 17th book were written over a period of 20 years and loosely trace her decision to become a writer and her metamorphosis into an academic. Together, they constitute a mixture of intellectual autobiography and manifesto on the proper living of a writer's life. Although in some essays hooks ruminates on her childhood in a working-class Southern black family, many others read like transcripts of lectures for college courses in American literature (hooks has taught at Yale, Oberlin, and the City College of New York), complete with suggested readings. She frequently analyzes her own work alongside the writing of Toni Morrison, Emily Dickinson, Lorraine Hansberry and Jamaica Kincaid. (According to hooks, Kincaid is taken more seriously by "mainstream" critics because she is not African American and because "writing by black writers who are not African-Americans tends to be seen as always more literary and therefore more valuable.") Some of the essays deal with the "politics" of publishing, the duplicity and rancorousness of academe and envy within the ranks of black writers. As always, hooks emphasizes the importance of personal and political identity to writing. Her prose is clear and she presents her arguments with a confident passion. If her politics are predictable, hooks infuses the best of these essays with a personal tone that sheds warm light on this one particular writer's writing life.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By hdjohn01@maxwell.syr.edu on March 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I saw the interview of bell hooks on C-Span. Went and purchased the book the next day. It serves as a primer for women who are writers or want to be writers. She candidly discusses the inside of the publishing industry. Also, she makes it clear that writing is something that a person should love for the craft not just for the money. Do not put this book down before you finish it. Near the end she pays a warm tribute to the black women writers who have influenced her work. As expected, it is well written and should become a part of our reference libraries.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bakari Chavanu on December 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Again, hooks demonstrates her range as writer and social critic. She writes about what it means to be a writer who is Black, feminist, and spirtually connected. This work will answer many of the questions readers of her other works may have about her inspirations as a writer, why she chose to write her memoirs, what challenges she has faced as a writer, and how we, her readers, can connect with our own lives through writing (She says:"Writing becomes a way to embrace the mysterious, to walk with spirits, and an entry to the realm of the sacred." And on her early writings: "My write was an act of resistance not simply in relation to outer structures of domination like race, sex, and class; I was writing t resist all the socialization I had received in religios, southern, working-class, patriarchal home that tried to teach me silence as the most desirable trait of womanliness"). It's not offen that we get to hear a progressive writer talk about the act of writing. This area is usually preserved for mainstream writers. So it's good to see hooks revealing parts of her self in this work. I think will see a lot more from hooks. I hope she delves more into her experiences in the academy, showing us her interacitons with her students and co-workers. While her life is important, we also need her critical eye on the people around her.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By rainqueen on January 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Essential for "the aspiring indigenous black female writer." Honest encouragement and insider info from a young woman writer who has blossomed into one of the most important writers and intellectuals of our times. Plus, it's good fun for those with a passion for writing or reading.
Her observations are wise. Her grasp of history is absolute. Her ideas stimulate intelligent and loving thought, conversation, and action. Read this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Louisa Charlene Vacon on June 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
Hooks' life absolutely depends on writing. In fact, she talks about writing to *avoid death* in many places throughout this collection of essays: there's the confessional writing that she does to avoid suicide early on in her writing life; there's also other more figurative deaths including despair and domination. These two can be overcome in writing by writing works of reconciliation and community, which hooks says she is always trying to do. This is a way of writing that will be most interesting to those among us who are interested in writing as resistance, or with social transformation.

Death seems to stalk black women who write. Hooks points to Audrey Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, Lorraine Hansberry, and others who died quite young. This is another reason why the writer must use her time deligently: she does not know when her time will be over. It is also a reason to write autobiographical work, so we'll know something about you, the writer, when you're dead. We still know very little about the life of Zora Neal Hurston, hooks says.

You can already see there are many writers about whom hooks thinks. The author's habitus includes: Matthew Fox on spirtuality, Dorothy Allison on growing up poor or working class, Cornel West on race, Tillie Olsen on class, Jeanette Winterson, Ann Petry, Emily Dickenson and more.

From childhood, hooks was eager to write: first poetry and diaries, then fiction, and later the critical non-fiction for which she is so well-known. (Did you know that bell hooks wrote her first book, Ain't I a Woman, when she was nineteen?) She observes that once you are pegged into one genre of writing, say that of the critical essay, it is unlikely that you will be able to cross over into other genres successfully.
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