... It's always a fascinating pleasure to see behind the lives of such brilliantly outspoken and dedicated social critics like bell hooks. Although the story and it's details always belong to the author's experience, a memoire lends itself to the reader's unique perception. This book brought me back to childhood and slammed my heart against words for feelings I'd never been able to identify while growing through my own "girlhood". Some of the human universe's deepest and most heartfelt emotions of family, sexuality, feminine and personal identity, jealousy, rage, contempt, and spirituality are permitted to ooze from the pages of this multi-faceted story. A wonderful trip through time for all of us who claw scratching through every day of our dreams and our lives.
In Bone Black Memories of Girlhood bell hooks describes her life as a girl, a girl who struggles to develop a distinct identity and self. The experiences described revolve around being female, black and moreover different. Exclusion, blame and punishment are some of the situations undergone, although the only longing is the one of belonging; "They tell me once you start you will be sorry. You will wish you had never straightened your hair. They do not understand that it is not the straightening I seek but the chance to belong, to be one in this world of women." (1996:93). The great effort to retain the balance between the distinct self and the feeling to be a part of the surrounding family/community/society is evident in every aspect of her life and every chapter of the book.
Reading it, somebody receives not only a personal, distinctive journey through childhood but also an analysis of the same journey and from the same person who once had experienced it. An exertion to maintain a different personality and to become a unique individual it is reviewed with a critical and sharp eye when bell hooks is anymore an adult.
I just finished bell hooks' Bone Black and I had to write something to someone. I have been reading autobiographies for a thesis for the past few months and have found a wealth of styles. None, however, can compare to the complex simplicity of Ms. hooks. Her language is a melding of childhood innocence and adult knowledge. For example, when she says "Only grown-ups think that the things children say come our of nowhere. We know they come from the deepest parts of ourselves" (24), she is able to consider both perspectives because she has lived both. It is touching that she chooses to identify with the children. Ms. hooks allows the reader, though her narritive switches, to follow her search for a home. Through personal and impersonal (first vs. third person) accounts, we come to symapthize with her exile from her family. In the end, when she notes that she "belong[s] in this place of words. This is my home" (183), the reader can only sigh in agreement. Her words are her home, both in Bone Black and later feminist theory. The magic is in the words.
At first, I was thrown by the simplicity of language and what felt like the limited child's perspective. As the imagery accumulated, the power of the spare unadulterated voice and the vision of that child came through-- as if reading a collection of poems -- the larger energy of the piece compelling and transformative. (I will puzzle over those first and third person chapters, but that is a treat for another time.)