Salvation: Black People and Love

Salvation: Black People and Love

by bell hooks

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Acclaimed visionary and intellectual bell hooks began her exploration of the meaning of love in American culture with the bestselling All About Love: New Visions. Here she continues her love song to the nation in the groundbreaking and soul-stirring Salvation: Black People and Love.

Whether talking about the legacy of slavery, relationships


Acclaimed visionary and intellectual bell hooks began her exploration of the meaning of love in American culture with the bestselling All About Love: New Visions. Here she continues her love song to the nation in the groundbreaking and soul-stirring Salvation: Black People and Love.

Whether talking about the legacy of slavery, relationships and marriage in Black life, the prose and poetry of our most revered artists and leaders, the liberation movements of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, or hip-hop and gangsta rap culture, hooks lets us know what love's got to do with it.

Salvation is work that helps us heal — and shows us how to create beloved American communities.

Editorial Reviews

Patrick Henry Bass
Cultural critic Bell Hooks offers one of her most touching and tender books to date in Salvation. In the second volume of her planned trilogy of love, Hooks takes us back to her Kentucky girlhood and probes the unique spiritual and emotional bond that exists between us. The prolific author offers chapters on black love that will conjure familiar memories that are warm and inviting.
Black Issues Book Review
A manual for fixing our culture. . . . In writing that is elegant and penetratingly simple, [hooks] gives voice to some things we may know in our hearts but need an interpreter like her to help process. hooks unflinchingly maps out how these patterns . . . contribute to the still-troubling status of African Americans today. One of the book's major contributions . . . is its probing analysis of how the mass media'entertainment and news'helps to shape what we think about ourselves and what others think of us.
hooks offers one of her most touching and tender books to date in Salvation. . . . [She] offers chapters on Black love that will conjure familiar memories that are warm and inviting.
Maya Angelou
When truth teller and careful writer bell hooks offers a book, I like to be standing at the bookshop when it opens. I know I will buy copies for my family and friends and even the odd stranger who I think needs to read books.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"The transformative power of love is the foundation of all meaningful social change," contends hooks in this impassioned plea to embattled African-American communities to embrace love as a force for change. Returning to the subject of last year's All About Love, this leading feminist scholar focuses this time on a love ethic that, she maintains, has the potential to undo the long-term effects of neglect, poverty and despair. As in other recent books on black relationships (such as George Edmond Smith and Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant's More Than Sex), hooks refutes the myth stemming from the time of slavery that black people haven't attempted to normalize their lives, citing documentation of familial love and strong community ties. Much of the conflict in relationships between black men and women can be linked, she suggests, to the sense of loss and abandonment arising from increasingly fractured black families; as a result, many members of the hip-hop generation mistrust love. Although hooks covers overworked turf in her chapters on self-love, her flair for crisp writing surfaces again in her celebration of black women's propensity for cultivating love in their communities and in her stinging arguments against the scapegoating of black single mothers. In the later chapters, hooks reaches beyond the theoretical to address various walks of black life. Her fans will delight in her array of cultural references, from Zora Neale Hurston, Cornel West and Erich Fromm to Eldridge Cleaver, Olga Silverstein and Lil' Kim. Despite recent criticism that hooks may have lost some of her bite, this book provides ample evidence to the contrary. (Feb. 1 Forecast: Though it won't defend hooks from the charge that she is rewriting the same book, this effort is more focused and potent that her last. Supported by an 11-city tour that will include events that play to her following among college students, this title should keep hooks's fans satisfied. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Feminist scholar hooks (All About Love), who believes that there is a crisis of "lovelessness" in the black community, continues her exploration of love with a different slant: she addresses its meaning in black experience today and offers a plan of action for "black survivial and self-determination." At the heart of the matter are poor neighborhoods that were once lively but are now deserted, a lack of spirituality, an emphasis on gaining material things, and the resulting collapse of community. Hooks also covers the issues of self-love, single mothers, black masculinity, heterosexual love, and homosexual love. She appeals to Martin Luther King, Cornel West, writer June Jordan, and others for words of wisdom in this well-written and informative work. Ultimately, she urges African Americans to return to love, the clear path to healing our wounded environment. A welcome addition to most academic and some public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/00.]--Ann Burns, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Heart of the Matter

Every Now And then I return to poor black communities I lived in or visited during my childhood. These neighborhoods that were once vibrant, full of life, with flowers planted outside the walls of run-down shacks, folks on the porch, are now barren landscapes. Many of them look like war zones. Returning, I bear witness to desolation. Surrounded by an aura of emptiness, these places, once shrouded in hope, now stand like barren arms, lonely and empty. No one moves into their embrace to touch, to be held and to hold, to comfort. Poverty has not created this desolation; the generations of folks who inhabited these landscapes have always been poor. What I witness are ravages of the spirit, the debris left after emotional assault and explosion. What I witness is heart-wrenching loss, despair, and a lovelessness so profound it alters the nature of environments both inside and out.

The desolation of these places where love was and is now gone is just one among many signs of the ongoing crisis of spirit that ravages black people and black communities everywhere. More often than not this crisis of spirit is talked about by political leaders and community organizers as engendered by life-threatening poverty, violence, or the ravages of addiction. While it is utterly true that all these forces undermine our capacity to be well, underlying these issues is a profound spiritual crisis. As a people we are losing heart. Our collective crisis is as much an emotional one as a material one. It cannot be healed simply by money. We know this because so many of the leaders whopreach to us about the necessity of gaining material privilege, who are holders of wealth and status, are as lost, as disenabled emotionally, as those among us who lack material well-being. Leaders who are addicted to alcohol, shopping, violence, or gaining power and fame by any means necessary rarely offer to anyone a vision of emotional well-being that can heal and restore broken lives and broken communities.

To heal our wounded communities, which are diverse and multilayered, we must return to a love ethic, one that is exemplified by the combined forces of care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility. Throughout our history in this nation black leaders have spoken about the importance of love. Indeed, now and then contemporary leaders stress the importance of a love ethic. Referring to the love ethic in his work Race Matters, philosopher Cornel West contends: "A love ethic has nothing to do with sentimental feelings or tribal connections.... Self-love and love of others are both modes toward increasing self-valuation and encouraging political resistance in one's community." While contemporary black leaders and thinkers talk about the need to have a love ethic as the foundation of struggles for black self-determination, in actuality most nonfiction writing about black experience does not address the issue of love in an extensive manner.

Since our leaders and scholars agree that one measure of the crisis black people are experiencing is lovelessness, it should be evident that we need a body of literature, both sociological and psychological work, addressing the issue of love among black people, its relevance to political struggle, its meaning in our private lives. I began thinking about the lack of commentary on love in black life when the debate about separate schools for black boys was taking place. Everywhere I turned, I kept hearing that black boys needed discipline, that they needed to learn the meaning of hard work, that they needed to have strong role models who would set boundaries for them and teach obedience. Again and again a militaristic model of boot camp and basic training was presented as a solution to the behavior problems of young black men. Not once did I hear anyone speak about black boys needing love as a foundation that would ensure the development of sound self-esteem, self-love, and love of others. Even though black mate leaders were among the voices defining lovelessness as a key cause of hopelessness and despair among black youth, none of them talked about the role of love in the education of young black boys.

When huge numbers of black males, young and old, gathered in the nation's capital for the Million Man March, there was no discussion of love. The word "love" was not evoked by any prominent speaker. Again and again when we talk about the contemporary crisis in black life, discussions of love are absent. This has not always been the case. Throughout our history in this country, radical black political leadership has emerged from religious settings, whether they be Christian, Islamic, or less recognized spiritual paths. Within these religions, especially Christianity, love has been central.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was a prophet of love preaching to the souls of black folks and our nonwhite allies in struggles everywhere. His collection of sermons Strength to Love was first published in 1963. Later, in 1967, in an address to a group of antiwar clergy, he stated: "When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: 'Let us love one another, for love is God and everyone that loveth is both of God and knoweth God. Much of King's focus on love as the fundamental principle that should guide the freedom struggle was directed toward upholding his belief in nonviolence. While he admonished black people again and again to reconize the improtance of loving our enemies, of not hating white people, he did not give much attention to the issue of self-love and communal love among black people.

Meet 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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