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Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  513 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
San Francisco Chronicle best-seller.

Wounds of Passion is a memoir about writing, love, and sexuality. With her customary boldness and insight, Bell Hooks critically reflects on the impact of birth control and the women's movement on our lives. Resisting the notion that love and writing don't mix, she begins a fifteen-year relationship with a gifted poet and scholar, who in
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 15th 1999 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 07, 2011 Ryan rated it liked it
For a good part of Wounds of Passion, I was frustrated by hooks' decisions, which I worried would bring her harm. At times, they did. I was also frustrated by how passive she was, though hooks maintains that she was always in control, even when she listens to a tape recording of herself sounding like a small child. bell prides herself on her insight into the hearts of those around her, even though she does not see that she has entered into a relationship with a man that strongly recalls her fath ...more
Mar 17, 2016 Robert rated it liked it
Wounds of Passion is aptly titled. It is a book about injuries to a self that passionately wants to bear witness to its painful truths, which is to say: born on the other side of the tracks in Kentucky, witness to the rage of a father who thought his wife betrayed him, black in a country where the white elites had become post-racial feminists (aren't you over that black thing yet?), wanting to be an academic rather than an a literary writer, not wanting to be drawn to a cold, brilliant, sexy man ...more
Jun 09, 2012 Katherine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
hooks' emotional fluctuations and unpleasant family relations are difficult for some people to get through when reading this book. However, if you ever have the opportunity and self-discipline to finish Wounds of Passion, hooks' gives great insight into the modern movement for the use of birth control and women's rights. Throughout the memoir hooks' uses two voices to tell her story: one is in third person, looking back at the her past and the other narrative explains the events as they are happ ...more
Nov 12, 2007 tamarack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone with a heart
this book blew me away. i never imagined an autobiography could be so beautiful and poetic. this non-chronological story tells of hooks' life as a writer and lover. she speaks of being a black feminist writer surrounded by deaf white ears, and of a creative spirit punished by patriarchal culture. hooks tells of growing up in kentucky, traumatic loss of love between her parents, her love of her grandmother's house and idealised marriage of 70+ years. moving back and forth between the world of her ...more
Dec 29, 2011 Monica rated it really liked it
This was the first book by Bell Hooks that I have read, but I am immediately going to Amazon to find other books by her. This memoir centers on Hooks' life as a writer and how her life shaped her politics.
It goes into her childhood struggles, how she tries to carve a place for herself as a writer while struggling to have a romatic relationship with a man. Hooks' work is studded with womens studies, feminist theory, racial theory, and literary reference.

The first two thirds of the book are absol
Marni Fantyn
Sep 24, 2011 Marni Fantyn rated it it was amazing
bell hooks is an inspiration. I've never read any of her other books but I'm inspired to read and learn more about this courageous woman. As an aspiring writer I couldn't have picked a better book to read about the struggles and tribulations of finding voice in the midst of all the silence. Her dedication to telling the truth, even at times where it could potentially create so much hurt, is not only admirable but beautiful. I look forward to growing and learning more about my own voice using thi ...more
Jul 19, 2015 Gina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Favorite quotes:

"Living in a world of racial apartheid where custom and conventions invented to separate black and white lasted long past an end to legal racial discrimination, those who are powerless--black folks--must be overly aware of small details as we go about our lives to be sure we do not enter forbidden territory--to be sure we will not be hurt. You learn to notice things. You learn where not to walk, the stores you don't want to go in, the white people you should not look directly in
Aug 11, 2011 Kony rated it it was amazing
Like Bone Black, here's an impressionistic collage of remembered moments that speak to and for my heart. bell hooks brings subjective truth, sets it to the music of well chosen words and simple sentences.

As with Bone Black, my connection to bell hooks and her writing comes from a deeply personal place, I think. But maybe it's just that her truths transcend social boundaries and would touch chords in any open heart/mind.
Nov 29, 2013 J.C. rated it really liked it
This is one of my required texts for my memoir writing class, and the first one to make me say, "oh! ok, so this is what a real memoir looks like". It is very well written, and is about several things. It's about the struggle between creation and passion, the physical and the emotional, the lines between ownership and freedom in relationships. Hooks wants an open relationship, but like any relationship of that kind, it comes with a certain amount of consequences. But Hooks carries them with her, ...more
Review in progress: It's idiotic to write disdainfully of the decisions or thought processes hooks goes through in this book. She's writing of a period of growth in her life. Of course some of it is going to be "harmful". But she explains her motives behind such decisions in much detail - it's the point of the book, after all.

I also disagree with the reviewer who said the last third of the book wasn't so hot. It's the part I enjoyed the most. Rather, I think at first it was a little hard for me
Sep 11, 2014 Betty rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, american
I found it an interesting choice to write a memoir in both first and third person, reflecting the way one can think of oneself from the inside and the outside. While not precisely chronological, nevertheless, she traces a maturity and awareness that develops and gets stronger over time. A fine memoir of a women who struggles with and articulates the complexities of race, gender and class.
Pat James
Jul 13, 2015 Pat James rated it it was amazing
I cannot even get into this book review without writing 80 pages. It's one of my favorite reads of all time. The way bell hooks rediscovers and analyzes her life through black femininity through classism, racism, feminism, relationships, black masculinity, family and academia all while existing in her own experience and both claiming her vulnerability and humanity is just ethereal. This book is too perfect for this earth and is essential.
Jan 02, 2009 Julene rated it it was amazing
Shelves: about-writing, memoir
A good memoir about how she came to writing. When she spoke in Seattle she discussed how difficult it was to get this book published because it was considered experiential at the time and the people who publish didn't want to take a risk! belle is an academic writer, but this book reflects her personal journey. She talks about her early relationship with a writer and their breakup and how it affected her writing, unusual for a black woman to reveal so much personal info. This book is a bold book ...more
Dec 07, 2014 Cherie rated it really liked it
A- Great writing, a memoir all over the place about love, a bad relationship, racism, sexism, feminism, writing…wonderful, inspirational, yes!!!!
"This is what it means to be among the colonizers, you do not have to listen to what the colonized say, especially if their ideas come from experience and not from books." p.98
"I was awed by my innocence. How could I have thought that I could speak truth to power and not be punished." p. 134
"She didn't expect everybody to be like her, to want to face things up-front. She understood their differences. Mostly though she was too understanding." p. 185
"That's the point, not that everything in a marr
Anna Preble
Dec 22, 2014 Anna Preble rated it it was amazing
Perfect soup for my soul to carry me through the ebb of the Winter solstice 2014. I loved the format as well.
Aug 05, 2014 Samantha rated it really liked it
I like how bell weaves writing in with her liberation as woman. Very good memoir.
Angel Gardner-Kocher
Apr 24, 2011 Angel Gardner-Kocher rated it it was amazing
bell hooks’ Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life explores how Gloria Watkins (aka bell hooks, famous feminist theorist) came to find her own voice as a writer. Following her from her humble beginnings as a Black girl growing up in the rural poor South to a prominent feminist theorist who still grappled with male domination in an abusive relationship, hooks lays out her past and her raw emotions truthfully. This emotional, and often heart-wrenching journey that made hooks’ the writer she is today is ...more
Apr 06, 2012 Catherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
I had an admittedly mixed reaction to this book and it took me awhile to finish it. bell hooks is a thinker who I admire tremendously and whose writings had a big influence on me when I was writing my Master's thesis. I didn't always enjoy the poetic, repetitive and nonlinear style of her writing for this particular book, though I recognize the technique and appreciate the skill it takes to be good at it. That said, this is an unbelievably brave book about bell hooks becoming bell hooks and wort ...more
Apr 17, 2010 Tulara rated it it was amazing
I could not put this book down. bell hooks writes her life, her loves, her passion and you can recognize yourself in her prose. The title, writer, does not do her justice. She makes you a partner in her life by putting you at the scene of her guilt, shame, anger, boldness and her long-time relationship with a man.
She grew up in the time frame where I was still finding my way - her experiences shout to me in my memories.
Her passion for being a true writer cannot be denied.
Misse Jones
Mar 17, 2015 Misse Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written. Well executed.
Jul 05, 2015 TJ rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
At first a little hard to follow. But as I got into it, really enjoyed it. Great insight. Great story telling.
Oct 30, 2011 Sadie rated it really liked it
This is a must read. Beautiful and moving, bell hooks takes the reader insider her personal struggle for growth and love. I was surprised to find deep religious and spiritual insights woven throughout, it can be very raw. Some readers may be put off at times by her blatant racial and sexual conclusions. But she paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be an outspoken Black feminist from the South during the civil rights era.
Tim Budge
May 07, 2015 Tim Budge rated it liked it
I enjoyed it. Very interesting writing, nice change of perspective and voice and a great insight into some of the issues around racism, sexism and patriarchy. It just didn't quite hang together enough for me to give it 4 stars. But I would highly recommend it and I am keen to read other writings by bell hooks.
Oct 09, 2007 Jen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-reviews
I'll always remember this book as the one I read while on my honeymoon. I always struggle to describe books that I love. It's about bell hooks' career as a writer, it's about the sexually open relationship she had with a fellow writer, it's about where she gets her inspiration. bell hooks is a respected feminist scholar who has written extensively on race and class, and this is a fascinating look at how she got where she is.
Tinika Mcintosh
Dec 20, 2012 Tinika Mcintosh rated it it was amazing
This has to be one of my favorite books because she presented herself as so ordinary while being extra-ordinary at the same time. I also enjoyed the way she switched back and forth between first and third person.. sometimes we need both to properly process stuff. The most inspiring part about the book for me is that she always did what was right for her...and everyone else had to get with the program later on.
Jul 26, 2007 Jamia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of my favorite books. It made me feel strong, beautiful, and comfortable with who I am... The words in this book have come up in my dreams... I have heard her advice and nurturing in my head too many times to count. And the painful truths she discusses so frankly, I feel them and remember my own experiences that mirror hers... and it cuts cleanly and sharply, leaving an impact that never leaves.
Peter E.  Frangel
Oct 23, 2014 Peter E. Frangel rated it liked it
bell hooks' control and manipulation of the language is incredible. This is one of those 'books as art' type experiences, but not so 'experimental that you have a hard time moving forward. It's quite beautiful, actually. The subject matter is not quite to my taste, however and I found myself slipping away through lack of connection with the narrator. That is my issue, not one that the book holds.
This is a story of how bell hooks found her voice. A memoir of bell hooks' discovery of feminist politics and her dedication to living a writing life, this book was fraught with fight. Her commitment to her vision is courageous and inspiring. hooks' early connection to poetry and language is inviting. This book awoke in me a desire to read more poetry and take up the pen again. To passion!
Nov 05, 2008 A rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
This is the only book by bell hooks that I've read, and it was quite some time ago. Her relationship with Robert Duncan and Jess was the big surprise for me. Although I didn't know them personally, they were the big icons for me in the Noe Valley neighborhood where I lived. Beyond that, hook's memoir seemed to be written with ease and with passion. That's what makes a real writer.
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bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) is an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She has published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in ...more
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“Writing is my passion. Words are the way to know ecstasy. Without them life is barren. The poet insists, language is a body of suffering and when you take up language you take up the suffering too. All my life I have been suffering for words. Words have been the source of the pain and the way to heal. Struck as a child for talking, for speaking out of turn, for being out of my place. Struck as a grown woman for not knowing when to shut up, for not being willing to sacrifice words for desire. Struck by writing a book that disrupts. There are many ways to be hit. Pain is the price we pay to speak the truth.” 9 likes
“Her love of words is a private passion - one she would rather not share. In the house of her childhood though everything had to be shared. If she tried to hold anything back, they would search and find the hidden places. Her written words, discovered, read were just the source of more pain and punishment. This was why she loved poetry. They did not always understand it so they left it alone.” 2 likes
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