All About Love: New Visions
HarperCollins Publisher, 1999
Reviewed by Alejandra Valencia Medina
All About Love is an important contribution that seeks to fill a long-existing gap in the literature on love, especially through the perspective of a woman. Conceived by the necessity of a definition for love, in the midst of an increasingly loveless society, this tells us “how to return to love.” First, hooks contends with the cynicism surrounding love in popular culture, to name that many people use that cynicism to mask their fear of disappointment and heartbreak. Second, she presents that love as a theoretical concept is often narrated by men, whereas women are expected to be the practitioners of love. Third, hooks details the genealogy of love, again contending with the gendered expectations and the contradictions surrounding and accepting that we know so little about love in theory and in practice. This book provides readers a new perspective through “radical new ways to think about the art of loving, offering a hopeful, joyous, vision of love’s transformative power.”
In thirteen chapters, All About Love engages the reader with love’s wisdom to be touched by love’s graces. Each of the chapters is named and based on the tenants of love that hooks names as ingredients for love: care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication. Chapter One, Clarity: Give Love Words, highlights the absent definition of love and aims to define it to provide a roadmap for the journey towards love. Chapter Two, Justice: Childhood Love Lessons, describes that love and abuse cannot coexist, and justice is necessary for love to break down power imbalances. Chapter Three, Honesty: Be True to Love, offers the reader to contend with the role of lying in creating lovelessness as dishonesty cannot help one know love regardless of the intentions behind lying. Chapter Four, Commitment: Let Love Be in Me, the author navigates the difficult topic of self-love, particularly in a society where powers outside oneself lead people to see themselves as unlovable. Chapter Five, Spirituality: Divine Love, challenges consumerism through nurturance of spiritual love and moves the reader to use love towards spiritual awakening. Chapter Six, Values: Living by a Love Ethic, encourages the reader to pursue love as a surrendering of power and domination and aims to create a world where all are allowed to live freely, fully, and well. Chapter Seven, Greed: Simply Love, challenges the addiction to a greedy search of personal satisfaction because that destroys intimacy and closeness; hooks addresses the relationship between class and greed. Chapter Eight, Community: Loving Communion, centers on building a strong foundation for community love and relishing friendships as equally valuable as romantic bonds. Chapter Nine, Mutuality: The Heart of Love, problematizes potential imbalances in heterosexual partnerships and offers the reader the agency to consider love as a practice that requires mutuality. Chapter Ten, Romance: Sweet Love, poses the opportunity to look inward and approach romantic love with intentionality, boldness, and courage. Chapter Eleven, Loss: Loving into Life and Death, empowers the reader to accept death with love and surrender and accept change. Chapter Twelve, Healing: Redemptive Love, presents the necessity of surrendering power and accepting that hurt and healing are necessary to know love. Chapter Thirteen, Destiny: When Angels Speak of Love, speaks to the cultural desire to return to love a find solace to heal our wounds.
One strength of this book is that hooks builds on the definition of theorists and self-help writers such as Erich Fromm and M. Scott Peck. Peck influenced by Fromm, defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” and “Love is as love does. Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.” In defining love, hooks seeks to reconceptualize love as a verb rather than a noun. In pursuit of agency in the loving practice, hooks wants readers to understand love as a choice. As hooks contends with theory and self-help books, she also complicates the act of loving by analyzing power structures, such as patriarchy, class, adultism, sexism, and heterosexism, while in conversation with popular cultural references.
The only shortcoming of this book is the lack of direct naming of racial and ethnic differences in the approach to the practice of loving. At times there are class differences that are addressed that could shift depending on the racial/ethnic experiences of the communities in conversation. For example, “often, workers believe that if their home life is good, it does not matter if they are dehumanized and exploited on the job.” While this is possible for all racial/ethnic groups to experience, in U.S. society, people of color are often the communities that contend with dehumanization and exploitation at higher rates than white people. However, hooks presents one of the first theoretical works on love that answers questions and necessitates love clearly and honestly. The nuances of the practice of love for racial/ethnic groups is work that future scholars can navigate. This is a relevant and accessible book to both academic and non-academic readers. The book provides ample information on love in the works and on the process of learning how to love. This book is significant because hooks tackles a concept that is in many ways taboo and feared in society, and she presents it with love and grace. The book post bell hooks’ passing is an especially necessary reminder to engage and center a politic of love in our personal, professional, and political lives.
This is a relevant and accessible book to both academic and non-academic readers. The book provides ample information on love in the works and on the process of learning how to love. This book is significant because hooks tackles a concept that is in many ways taboo and feared in society, and she presents it with love and grace. The book post bell hooks’ passing is an especially necessary reminder to engage and center a politic of love in our personal, professional, and political lives.