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A powerful voice for change and renewal, bell hooks was a prolific author from the American South. Within her many works are recurring themes of cultural criticism, gender, Blackness, feminism and womanism. These books for fans of bell hooks highlight her nonfiction works and share other Black female authors whose literary contributions are immeasurable.
All About Love by bell hooks
One of her most popular works, All About Love is bell hooks’ cultural criticism of the ways in which we are conditioned to give, receive and understand love. She addresses its unique interconnectedness between what is personal and what is public, a characteristic that makes love a crucial aspect of our everyday lives. In this work, hooks argues that our understanding of love that is often passed down from relatives when we are very young is inherently flawed, a flaw exacerbated by its pervasiveness in every aspect of our lives. The solutions she proposes range from an empowering self-love to seeing love as the answer to our greatest social questions. Evoking strong reactions, both negative and positive, All About Love is an essential work to learn more about bell hooks and consider what love means to us.
Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
Letter to My Daughter is a poignant essay collection from prolific author Maya Angelou addressed to the daughter she never had. Within its pages are stories of her upbringing in segregated Arkansas, of living with her unshakeable grandmother in such a harrowing time for Black people, and what it was like to move in with her unorthodox mother as a gangly teen. Angelou also shares her first exual encounter that, despite its lovelessness, brought her a beloved son. She brings readers along on this life path to her ultimate success as a famous poet with motherly warmth and beautiful writing.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson’s Red at the Bone begins with her protagonist, Melody, celebrating her sixteenth birthday at her family’s Brooklyn brownstone. The dress Melody wears bears a difficult family history—it was her mother’s, intended to be worn on the night she turned sixteen. But that celebration never happened. From this point, Woodson unfurls the story of Black Americans for generations through Melody’s family. Racism, struggle, survival, heartbreak, betrayal—all are aspects of what they faced and overcame. Through these characters, Red at the Bone tells a true history of real people.
In addition to her writing, bell hooks was a teacher. Her two worlds come together in Teaching to Transgress, a nonfiction work where hooks applies her liberation ideologies to the classroom. She implores the reader to consider what should be done by already-overworked teachers when important issues such as racism and sexism reveal themselves in the classroom. In addition, she questions what changes must come to the American education system in a time of multiculturalism, to reach students where they are. Through this work, hooks aims to encourage teachers by sharing her own experiences in struggling and succeeding as a teacher.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beloved is Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison’s most famous novel, both for its spellbinding beauty and controversy. The story begins with Sethe, a woman born enslaved who manages to escape north to Ohio. But after eighteen years, she still is not free. Although she has survived unimaginable cruelty, Sethe’s memories continue to haunt her of Sweet Home, the place she experienced so much pain. In her new home, Sethe is also haunted by the ghost of her baby, whose grave says “Beloved.” Sethe tries to bury the past to the depths of her mind. But one day, a mysterious teenage girl named Beloved arrives and nothing is the same.
Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks
In her all-encompassing work Feminism Is for Everybody, bell hooks calls the reader to imagine an open-hearted, generous future for everyone in society. Within hooks’ theory of feminism is a loving community that is united in its commitment to equality, mutual respect, and justice. In this specific book, bell hooks balances this optimistic outlook with her famous cultural criticism, an acknowledgement that where society is currently is not where she believes it should be. Throughout her criticism, hooks addresses the most pressing issues of the feminist movement, including class, race, and work. Pair this book with Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism for a holistic view of hooks’ writing on feminism, womanism and racism.