Riles Reads: All About Love by bell hooks
All About Love by bell hooks is an exploration into the different facets of love -- how it shows up in our communities, how we misunderstand it on a cultural level, and how we can make changes to better show up to invite love into our lives.
As someone who thinks about love a lot, I was really interested to read this book and see what hooks had to offer. I found lots of references to other books on love that I've now added to my list, and an expansion of vocabulary around the different facets of love that I will carry with me into the future. She starts off noting how we do not have a shared definition of love in our society. "Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition." She offers the definition that love is "the will to nurture our own and another's spiritual growth" and uses that as a backdrop against which to discuss the other facets of love that show up (or don't in our lives).
While I think the exploration is fascinating and useful to inspire further thought, it's also very gendered and heterocentric. Repeatedly we are told that men do this, while women do that. While this may be a true observation of how the world has worked from the author's point of view, as she also notes toward the end, "Our patterns... are unlikely to change if we do not change our language." From this perspective, I would subtly change from "Men do..." to "Society often expects men to..." or "People socialized as male tend to..." which is both more specific to what we actually mean and leaves more space for growth and change. (Or remove gender entirely and simply talk about the destructive behaviors we tend to see and how we might do the work to grow past them.)
That said, I don't think we need to agree with something in order for it to be a useful part of our learning, and often in disagreement we can further our own thinking around a subject. So I'd still recommend picking up and checking it out! Taking a moment to explore for yourself what love is, means, and could look like is a super valuable way to invest in a better understand of who and how you want to be in the world. (I actually created a worksheet around that for my patrons, so we could all take a step forward in this necessary work.)
Click here to grab a copy from Bookshop.org and support independent bookstores. We read this book together in the Soft Heart Book Club in June 2021, and you can come join us to talk about future readings and books like this. (Even after we've had the monthly meeting, the Discord space is always open to dive back into different books, so if you're picking this up now, you can still come talk to us about it!)