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  • nadiyahpeacock

bell hooks: Love and Healing

Updated: Sep 19, 2022

As you all may know, bell hooks passed away last month. I cried a lot, and I think in those moments of crying, I was realizing how much of an impact her writing had on my life. I heard the news in the morning, and I was so shocked. I began to reflect and write about her work and wisdom. I knew I wanted to write a blog post about her legacy and my experience exploring her work. Her writing is truly life- changing. I'm currently reading and enjoying her book Communion: The Female Search for Love.

I first learned about bell hooks during one of my classes as a freshman in college. We read a few excerpts from her books in my "Revolutionary Women in the 60s" class. That was one of my favorite classes, and I'm glad I took it during my first year of college. We didn't read much of her writing because the bulk of the class was focused on Assata Shakur and analyzing her autobiography. Throughout my college career, I took many more courses centering women. During my last semester, I took a course that explored women's studies. We explored many scholars and bell hooks was one of them. Specifically we dove into the "oppositional gaze", which is a type of looking relation that involves the political rebellion and resistance against the repression of a Black person's right to look. This was first coined by bell hooks in her 1992 essay collection "Black Looks- Race and Representation."

I hadn't read a full book of hers until I was out of college. The first book I chose to read was All about Love in 2019, and it was very impactful. Her work affirmed me and the work I've done in college and will continue to do. At that point, I had graduated college and started working full- time. I used to read it at work when I had some down time. I kept a small green journal with me so I could take notes of the parts that stood out to me. During the time I read it, I was going through a transitional period that wasn't always easy. A few months before reading it, I decided to end the relationship I had with my father. I was still processing the decision, and reading her book was like a big hug. I was reminded to not close up and to still be open to love from others. Also, to move with love, to keep love at the center of all things, and remembering that I am love. In the preface, hooks says "Only love can heal the wounds of the past. However, the intensity of our woundedness often leads to a closing of the heart, making it impossible for us to give or receive the love that is given to us." This spoke to me because it described exactly what I was doing. Often times when we're hurt, we close up in hopes of protecting our hearts from enduring a similar pain, but we're only blocking love from coming in from other sources. It's important to heal and keep our hearts open to fully receive the love that we truly deserve.

At that point of reading her book, I hadn't seen many healthy examples of love. Just to be clear, I'm referring to platonic, familial and romantic examples of love. bell hooks defines love as an action and not a feeling. A feeling isn't enough because love requires effort. Further, she describes love as "the will to nurture our own and another's spiritual growth". I like this definition because it emphasizes the fact that love and life are experiences. Every relationship and friendship won't last, but it can still be loving. Choosing to nurture someone's spiritual growth can happen in a short amount of time and still be impactful. I also like how she doesn't limit love to having a relationship with someone. You can be loving and nurture a complete stranger's growth with a simple 5 - minute conversation. We should all extend love to ourselves and others in our daily lives.

After finishing All about Love, I made a post on Instagram about it. I included the book cover and a paragraph that reads, "Love heals. When we are wounded in the place where we know love, it is difficult to imagine that love really has the power to change everything. No matter what has happened in our past, when we open our hearts to love we can live as if born again, not forgetting the past but seeing it in a new way, letting it live inside us in a new way. We go forward with the fresh insight that the past can no longer hurt us. Or if our past was one in which we were loved, we know that no matter the occasional presence of suffering in our lives, we will return always to remembered calm and bliss. Mindful remembering lets us put the broken bits and pieces of our hearts together again. This is the way healing begins." I posted it on December 15th, 2019. She passed away 2 years later on December 15th, 2021. To me, this symbolizes completion and closure in a way. I was able to fully receive her words and wisdom. I was able to reflect on my journey in order to heal. I think it symbolizes the completion of me reading her book, receiving her messages and then her leaving the physical world.

Throughout her book, she extends grace to her audience and centers our healing. She encourages us to heal and grow from our past so we don't end up letting our trauma define us. Black people experience trauma in many ways, and choosing to write about how love is healing for us is truly revolutionary. bell hooks encourages us to change the ways in which we view ourselves. Her work has healed generations and will continue to do so.

In All about Love, she touched on a topic that was very eye-opening to me. She said that most parents didn't love their children. They cared for them, but didn't truly love them. Care is a dimension of love, but simply caring isn't enough to be loving to another person. She used her own experience and said that if her parents were loved by their parents, they would have given that love to their children. They gave care because that's what they have been given. I like that she recognizes that people can only give you what they have inside and what they're familiar with. I also like that she extended grace and understanding to her parents for not knowing better. She also clarifies that love isn't hurtful and abusive. She uses the example of a father beating his children and their mom telling them that he still loves them. She doesn't agree that this is an example of love because love and abuse cannot coexist.

She talked a lot about giving children voices and teaching them agency and self- love. This is important because often times parents just tell their children what to do and how to think, without allowing their children to explore their own thoughts and have their own voices. Teaching children to comply with everything adults say and do will not nurture children's growth and individuality. It's important for children to be nurtured in their childhood, so they'll have a strong foundation as adults.

If you haven't explored the work of bell hooks, it isn't too late. I encourage everyone to read All about Love. It offers other perspectives of love and life. All about Love is part of a trilogy, and I'm currently reading Communion: The Female Search for Love. I think I'll read Salvation: Black People and Love next to finish the trilogy. bell hooks is one of my favorite writers and she inspires me to continue to focus on my writing. Her work is very readable, relatable and impactful. I'm grateful that she shared her words and wisdom with us. It's very affirming and empowering for Black women especially. She was very unapologetic and passionate in her writing.

"When we love we can let our hearts speak." - bell hooks

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