By Taylre Rene Malloy~Self-Love Literature Contributing Writer
“I feel our nation’s turning away from love and moving into a wilderness of spirit so intense we may never find our way home again. I write of love to bear witness both to the danger in this movement, and to call for a return to love.” – bell hooks
Love is the most powerful force within our universe. Without love, humanity is pure cyborg. On the contrary, in the presence of love, anything is possible.
There are hundreds of novels about the healing power of love all over the Internet. You know, those feel-good stories that make you stop and reflect during your day and realize that there’s so much more to life than our day-to-day routines and responsibilities. The kind of love stories that teach us about the universal force connecting all living things. A sacred love. Writer, feminist, and spiritual leader, bell hooks illuminates this kind of sacred love within her writing, thus teaching us many lessons in self-acceptance and spirituality. Below are three lessons in self-love that reading bell hooks has taught me.
Self-Love Lesson #1: Love is Infinite
This strange thing we all call love can show up in so many uniquely simple ways. Anytime someone comes from a place of empathy and compassion, the ripple effect throughout the Universe is incredible. bell hooks, highlights love’s infinite ripple in her novel “All About Love” where she reveals that “one of the best guides to self-love is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others.”
Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, hooks originally fell in love with writing at a young age. She adapted her pen name, bell hooks from her maternal great-grandmother with the intentions of honoring her matriarchal legacy.
Using only the lowercase form in her name, she shifts attention onto the themes and motifs depicted within her writing, rather than her own fame or persona itself. Her writing explores the depths of love and hi-lights ideas of both masculinity and femininity.
Without surprise, just 20 years after her first “love” book was released, the series remains healing and relevant, serving as an invaluable resource for loving ourselves within a transforming digital age.
Self-Love Lesson #2: Love is The Greatest Revolution
In so many ways, the teachings of self-love undulate throughout the entirety of hook’s novels like a sacred mantra. Her writing teaches us that the energy of love is one of the highest energies out there, and more importantly can transcend all boundaries. Sacred acts of love raise the consciousness of the planet, and by doing what we love, and in my case through the process of writing what I love, we instantly spark a revolution for all to participate in.
The writing of bell hook’s teaches us to be compassionate to others despite perceived differences, transcend and learn from injustice, and to tolerate and promote truth at all times. Together, love’s innate principles are intricately expressed within hook’s novels despite her challenging beginnings.
Coming of age in the deeply segregated south, hooks illuminates the realities of social oppression and racism through her literature. In particular, she felt drawn to the poetry of many notable poets of the Harlem Renaissance including Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Anne Spencer.
hooks sparked inspiration from Toni Cade Bambara’s 1970 anthology The Black Woman, while in high school, which featured stories, essays, and poetry by prominent black female writers like Alice Walker and Nikki Giovanni. Tapping into concepts that few texts had ever done before, these writers tackled race, sex, politics, body image, and countless other topics at a time when black women were not yet seen as a relevant part of the feminist movement.
Self-Love Lesson #3: Love is the Highest Level of Freedom and Self-Expression
“When we see love as a combination of trust, commitment, care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility, we can work on developing these qualities or…we can learn to extend them to ourselves,” she writes.
At one point in her career, hooks dreamed of becoming an architect, but soon uncovered her voice and unlimited creative freedom early on in high school and later college. Graduating from Stanford University in 1973 with a degree in English Literature, while still in college, at the age of 19, she began working on Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism.
Inspired by Sojourner Truth’s legendary 1851 speech of the same title, hooks began writing the book after witnessing a lack of authentic black women’s voices represented throughout academic institutions. The process of writing Ain’t I A Woman took seven years and for many feels like reading the greatest love story ever told.
As an ode to black women, Ain’t I A Woman is an endearing “love letter from me to black women,” hooks stated as she contemplated the role of black women in society from slavery through 1980, the year before the book’s publication in 1981. She explored the grave error committed when their stories and experiences are relegated to the back shelf, specifically when developing feminist narratives; how black women, in particular, have been affected by sexism and racism and what that means for black womanhood.
So there you have it, three lessons reading bell hooks has taught me throughout my life. May your experience with her literature open your heart and mind to new ways of viewing the world and humanity. As always, may her writing inspire you to continue creating stories of love.