The Black Syllabus
Review | all about love
Updated: Jan 11, 2022
All About Love turned out to be a very satisfying read, which was a pleasant surprise. I thought it would be a bit more of a “self-help” vibe, and she does give some of that, but not entirely. She gives us a very sound interpretation, critique, and advice surrounding the concept of love in our culture.
The chapters I enjoyed the most were Honesty (made me never want to tell a white lie again), Spirituality, Values, and Community. The Community chapter actually reminded me a lot of polyamorous dynamics; I would recommend this chapter to anyone considering or practicing polyamory, or simply wanting to move away from patterns of toxic monogamy. She emphasizes the importance of valuing all relationships, not just romantic ones, among other vital concepts. hooks also makes a solid point about the importance of solitude as a way to show up for community in a more loving and intentional way. I also really love the way she defines living by a love ethic in the Values chapter. “The underlying values of a culture and it’s ethics shape and inform the way we speak and act. A love ethic presupposes that everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well.” (87) This reminds me a lot of Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown (not sure if she talks about living by a love ethic specifically in that book as I’m still at the beginning), and is something I have always believed in but didn’t have the words to describe until now.
I don’t really like her gendered generalizations of “most men are this way” or “women tend to do this.” I would love to see an updated version of this book that doesn’t necessarily attribute differences in (or lack of) love languages to the gender binary. I would also love to see updated language that is not so heteronormative (but I understand this was written in 2000 when these conversations weren’t as prominent).
bell hooks is clearly intelligent, with a remarkable ability to draw sound conclusions for universal problems/questions. I did find myself wondering at times, how she came to these conclusions. A lot of this book is based on research that she’s done; she does a great job at citing her sources clearly. There are other instances though, where she makes blanket statements that seem baseless, but make perfect sense (to me) nonetheless. I assume these claims are based on her own observation & experience, but I’m not totally convinced that she’s always right in her assertions. I think it’s possible that, as nuanced as humans are, there are people who will not relate to or agree with the assertions that she claims as universal.
Nevertheless, this book is a gem. I think most of it still holds true 21 years after publication, but I would be extremely interested to read an updated edition in the near future.