All About Love reveals what causes a polarized society, and how to heal the divisions that cause suffering. Here is the truth about love, and inspiration to help us instill caring, compassion, and strength in our homes, schools, and workplaces.
I’m entirely lost for words with this review.
But I’ll try my best to put into words how this book made me feel.
There are no other words to describe bell hooks than as a literary giant. She was what I would consider one of the foremothers of Black literature for me. Her writing, alongside Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Mildred D Taylor, Angela Davis, Terry Macmillan and many more, shaped me into who I am today. I grew up reading their works, reaching for their novels – fiction and non-fiction when I sought to read about people that looked like me.
I discovered bell hooks during the first year of university, I think (it may have been earlier in sixth form or college). I stumbled across one of her essays (annoyingly I can’t remember the name of it) but it was part of this massive anthology I had bought for my degree. I remember reading it in utter awe, feeling so seen for how I felt about my identity in relation to colonialism.
From that moment on, I would reach for a bell hooks essay whenever I was writing an essay for my degree.
Her work ‘Ain’t I A Woman’ pretty much shaped my dissertation and changed so much of how I look at myself as a Black woman within the hierarchical structure of society.
For years, I’ve been saying I would pick up ‘All About Love’. I’ve heard about it from a number of people on Bookstagram, listening to Podcasts e.g. Lil Simz mentions it on an episode of The Receipts…
And towards the end of last year, I decided that I wanted to understand my thoughts towards love. I wanted a greater relationship with my knowledge of it as an emotion.
I made it my first book of the new year and decided that I would try to read a chapter every night.
And from the very first page, I knew this book was about tearing down every single thing I thought I knew about love and rebuilding my feelings about it.
Split into thirteen chapters, bell hooks discusses love in relation to childhood, family, honesty, commitment, spirituality, greed, power, community, romance, grief and healing. There was this omniscient narrated tone that hooks adopts throughout this book to explain what love is and how it should be the foundation of society and thus, our lives. It’s within the first couple of pages that she reminds you that love is more than just a feeling…
It is an action.
“Love is as love does…”
This seems very obvious, doesn’t it? But when she goes on to explain that love is about showing someone you love them rather than just expecting them to know, you’ll start to think back to all the relationships in your life and evaluate what version of love you give them.
hooks will lean on other texts, philosophers and even activists to discuss alternative viewpoints of love in it’s various forms. There’s an acknowledgment that the love she’s talking about is something we all attain for. The unconditional true love or an unbreakable bond where you are simply yourself around someone.
It doesn’t even have to be romantic. It can truly be platonic and even familial. But it is that search for love that is at the forefront of society. It’s portrayed in most films and tv-shows, on social media and even just in, general, everyday life. Love is a core element of society but is often frowned upon.
hooks questions why. She discusses how love is associated with being weak because it is effectively part of someone showing emotions. She then goes on to convey how love manifests in people’s lives through different forms but also, what the effects of that manifestations can be and how that translates into how they are as an adult.
There’s no doubt that you will become reflective reading this book. You will also feel hopeful. It’s reminded me of how much joy I have from the people I love in my life but also of just how much love I have to give. There were moments where it felt like bell hooks was talking directly to me e.g. my desire to self-isolate the moment I feel overwhelmed.
“Self-love cannot flourish in isolation”
Wow…did I feel this one. I’m not even sure how or where I picked up this habit. But the moment I feel overwhelmed I have the sudden urge to disappear.
To “ghost” from everyone until I feel social again.
bell hooks reiterates that spending time by yourself is crucial. But be careful to confuse solitude with loneliness. Solitude is healthy. Loneliness isn’t.
I realised that I would disappear to the point that I felt lonely and that feeling of loneliness was when I decided I was ready to talk to people again…
Which isn’t healthy at all. I thought it was self-love. Bell hooks taught me I was only harming myself. As with all things, it’s about finding a balance. Finding a balance isn’t always easy but bell hooks made me realise just how crucial it is to live a sustained happy life.
“But many of us seek community solely to escape the fear of being alone. Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.”
I’m someone that tries with all my heart to forgive and move on.
I hate holding grudges and I hate being on bad terms with people. However, there’s a difference between forgiving someone and accepting them back in your life and forgiving someone to move on.
Bell hooks reiterate that with love comes forgiveness. You have to be prepared to forgive over and over again because humans aren’t perfect.
They will disappoint you as much as you won’t want them to.
But forgiveness can also be an act of generosity and respect. It’s about releasing someone from anger, anguish and guilt. We allow ourselves to find our way back to love.
“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.”
Slowly but surely.
And nobody is saying that means to “fall’ back in love with that particular person or even being on best terms with them. But you’re more likely to be accepting of love from someone else if you’re more willing to forgive others.
Forgiving someone won’t be easy but as I’ve learned over the years it takes active engagement and the willingness to choose to forgive over and over again. Whenever I catch myself feeling any sort of resentment, I say a little prayer in my head and ask God to clear my heart. It’s something that works for me and has helped tremendously with the act of forgiveness.
“We cannot know love if we remain unable to surrender our attachment to power, if any feeling of vulnerability strikes terror in our hearts…”
I loved what bell hooks said about power.
The moment someone allows powers to enter the relationship, love is no longer the main element between you two. It becomes a power struggle.
Which will inevitably lead to a lack of trust, dishonesty and a breakdown of communication.
In a society designed to encourage and promote the powerful, it’s a wonder how love is really allowed to flourish. It can be scary to think that in order to love, you have to surrender your sense of power…of control. To allow yourself to fall wholeheartedly and trust that the person you’re with won’t take advantage of you.
But there’s real beauty in the love that comes with surrendering that power. A real love that bell hooks talks of being healing and all-consuming. She talks of the power that comes with that surrender and weakness. A power that’s made possible because of the decision to let go.
It was so intriguing to read about and to understand where bell hooks think power struggles come from e.g. childhood, family dynamics and even society.
Children and Family Dynamics:
“There can be no love without justice. Until we live in a culture that no only respects but also upholds basic civil rights for children, most children will not know love.”
There’s a lot that I learned about myself reading this book. A lot that I read about family dynamics and how they can influence how you are when you grow up…
But most importantly how you view love.
Family is where you learn what love is. It’s meant to be your foundation of understanding when it comes to love. bell hooks explores what they may look like in children, both male and female, sons and daughters…and just what they mean for the relationships they make when they’re older.
This is a book I know I’ll keep on my shelf for years to come.
It made me feel broken, healthy, whole, hopeful…loved.
To love is to live. And to live is to love.
The two coincide with everything we’ve ever learned and will be taught growing up. To know love is to know joy. To be present in the face of it is something we should all be thankful for.
This book will be something I’ll reread often whenever I want to remind myself of what love means to me and what I want it to become.
Love is an action but it also a choice. We choose to love everyday.
“To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients – care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication…”