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Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,413 ratings  ·  139 reviews
Stitching together girlhood memories with the finest threads of innocence, feminist intellectual bell hooks presents a powerfully intimate account of growing up in the South. A memoir of ideas and perceptions, Bone Black shows the unfolding of female creativity and one strong-spirited child's journey toward becoming a writer. She learns early on the roles women and men pla ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 15th 1997 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1996)
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Michael Finocchiaro
This is a fantastic autobiography from feminist activist and theorist bell hooks. As all her work, it is witty and engaging and insightful. A must in our current race-baiting and woman-hating rhetoric of Drumpfism, the TV evangelist psychos and Fox&Friends. ...more
Thomas
A slender and poetic memoir by African American feminist and intellectual bell hooks. In sparse, three-paged chapters, hooks details her experience growing up as a poor black girl in an era of racial segregation. You can see her budding feminist roots in Bone Black, as she shares poignant memories such as the joy and shame of discovering her sexuality, how people labeled queer and gender nonconforming folk as "funny," and the complex feelings she experienced whenever she saw the ways women made ...more
Crystal Starr Light
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Crystal Starr Light by: my sister :)
bell hooks is a pretty famous feminist, writer, speaker, and activist. Unfortunately because of my upbringing, I didn't actually know she existed until my sister took a women's studies class and bought a bunch of bell hooks' books. Ever since then, my sister has been pestering me to read them. Since this is Black History Month, I thought now was the perfect time to acquiesce to my sister.

The best way to describe this book is a photo album. You go to your parent's bookshelves (or coffee table) an
...more
Tara
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Tara by: meg tuite
Shelves: memoir
This book should be part of every high school reading curriculum, especially in these worrisome times. At the highest level, writing should stimulate empathy, and this memoir, told in carefully rendered vignette chapters, is not only beautiful on a visceral level but on a teaching level. hooks opens up her heart and mind and allows us to FEEL her upbringing in a black community in the south. We feel her pain when she is beaten, cry with her in her solitude, nod with her when she gets a sentence ...more
Bob Brinkmeyer
Oct 17, 2019 rated it liked it
As bell hooks says in the Foreword, Bone Black “is autobiography as truth and myth—as poetic witness.” In other words, it’s not a full-blown autobiography, but more a reflection upon key moments from and influences during her upbringing in rural Kentucky. The book moves in short chapters—3 pages each—zeroing in on these moments and influences, sometimes told in first person, sometimes in third person narration. This shift in narrative position is an unusual and striking tactic, and with it hooks ...more
Meg Tuite
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
WOW! Okay, so this is an unparalleled memoir. This is a memoir in flash. This is a memoir of the youngest daughter on fire. She is black. She gives her life to us in short, concise sentences that bust through the macro and micro of life in every paragraph. She gives us unforgettable similes. Hooks is brilliant! We watch through her eyes. We see the injustices, the horror, and the beauty. Read this! I'm sorry I came so late to it! It will be with me always! Here are some quotes:
"She could see the
...more
Elizabeth
Bone Black is the first complete work I have read from bell hooks, although at the time of this review I am in the midst of one of her other books. I'm glad that this is the first book of hers I finished, as I feel it has given me a glimpse of where the perspective of her other works lies. Regardless of the reading order, this was an incredibly well done memoir.

As hooks mentions a quilt from her grandmother in the opening chapter, this book quickly forms into a quilt of its own. It is a glorious
...more
Elli (The Bibliophile)
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I would say this is the best book I've read this year so far!

This memoir is basically a collection of memories that bell hooks has about her childhood. They seem to be in a vaguely chronological order leading up to her senior year of high school. The chapters are all quite short- usually 3 pages long. Because of this I found it was a very easy book to read quite quickly!

I also enjoyed the writing, and found it interesting how most sections were told in first person narrative, and some in third
...more
Robert Vaughan
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A testament to the power of memoir. Trusting the reader. The fluctuating point of view technique explained in the forward of Bone Black was used effortlessly, though if you have ever tried to do this as a writer, it is so difficult. And the open vision, hooks' prose poetic lines, her short versed chapters, like lightening storm flashes. Like archery. And a testament to bravery, to dare to tell the outsider story of a black girl growing up in rural Kentucky, never quite fitting in, even among her ...more
Taylor
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Bone Black was the most inspiring book I have ever read. It was a memoir but it was not the typical memoir. The book was written in a more poetic kind of way. She did not have sentences be she have phrases. Simple phrases that came together to tell about her childhood of being a black girl.


She grew up in the Jim Crow era. there were white only places that she wanted to go in but she could not. She also was the black sheep of the family. No one understood her she was not your average of little gi
...more
Katrina
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it
hooks experiments with her writing in this book. I wonder if this book is like her poetry. There are a lot of interesting things happening here but it can be challenging (and sometimes boring) to get through it. BUT, I think it's a serious must-read if you're interested in Black families, Black women's lives etc.
Amber
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I don't know how to take this book. Her experiences are so different from mine that I don't know how to understand them or whether I'm meant to understand them (being white, being priviledged). I know the joy of books, but not the struggle of integration, of fighting for those books. I can't know what it is like to be black. Will have to reread.
Nicole
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
bell hooks' writing is fluid and thoroughly digestible. I found the chapters written in the third person awkward at first but I got used to it. Stylistically it's interesting as it makes me think about (as The Ocean at the End of the Lane did) how one's memories recalled in first person are usually (seen as?) authentic where memories recalled in third person are often *told* to you and you are imagining a story about yourself: retroactively created memories of things of which you have no direct, ...more
Jennifer
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Poignant and vivid. Takes me back. Even though bell hooks and I are from a different generation, our experience as a black girl living in the south are the same. Bone Black is going down as one of my all time favorites.
Dash Williams
It is like reading a quilt.
Lindsey Z
Sep 18, 2018 rated it liked it
If you’re familiar with bell hooks, this memoir is an intriguing look at her childhood and how she was raised. She covers issues like racism, homophobia, gender expectations, domestic violence, death, and sexuality. There are 61 chapters, snippets of memory or commentary about her childhood. Each chapter is exactly 2.5 pages long, so there’s consistency in the presentation, but that meant that each vignette was incredibly short, and, as a result, felt undeveloped. She alternates between the 1st ...more
Bobbieshiann
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
“deep within myself i had begun to worry that this loving care we gave to the pink and white flesh-colored dolls meant that somewhere left high on the shelves were boxes of unwanted, unloved brown dolls covered in dust. i thought that they would remain there forever, orphaned and alone, unless someone began to want them, to want to give them love and care, to want them more than anything. at first they ignored my wanting. they complained. they pointed out that white dolls were easier to find, ch ...more
Rachel Renbarger
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love how she demonstrates that you don't have to write a lot to communicate a lot. She hits on practically every major life issue- poverty, racism, sexuality, love, you name it- with childlike description that magnifies reality. Because of this it still takes awhile to make it through the book despite how short it is. You'll want to think and write and feel after each little nibble. My only complaint, if you can really complain at all about this, is the title. Blackness and color are throughou ...more
BlackBookie
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is in a way a precursor to Wounds of passion: A writing life. Which is my favourite bell hooks book by far. Bone black is written in short spurts which creates a division in her early life experiences and how she has perceived them. I was a little disappointed in the turnout, but that was because of my projections.

Would read again.
Gina
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very musical; there are passages that could easily be spoken as poetry with the way the words flow and interact with each other.

It is also very sad. As an outsider in her family, thinking differently, looking differently, there is a lot of loneliness and alienation. The pleasure that she found in words makes it understandable that she would become an English professor and write poetry and write this book.

The other important thing is that every now and then there is a person who is kind or reassu
...more
Ray Carroll
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most painful things I think I have ever read.
Lynn
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book happened to catch my eye the last time I went to the library, and I just knew I needed to read it. Not sure why--thought I remembered disliking the only other bell hooks I'd ever read. Glad I followed the whim. A brief and unconventional memoir of a young black woman coming into her own after years of being her family's "problem" child, the many, almost uniformly brief "chapters" feel more like poems or pictures. The author's voice is calm and steady; her writing is elegant and impress ...more
Kony
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This memoir speaks simply, eloquently, to my heart. These scattered snatches of bell hooks's childhood cohere readily in my mind, because she embeds them in emotions and sensibilities that resonate with mine. (Although the concrete details of *my* childhood, on the outside, looked quite different.) While reading this book, I began to write more poetically, imagistically, and I think humanely. I don't presume that this book will be or do the same for you. Check it out yourself.
Rachel León
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
bell hooks sure can write! This book is short but powerful. It's not told in the typical autobiographical format (first person, unfolding story) but rather small vignettes with shifting perspectives. Original, smart, and touching.
Chula Brown Buffalo
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book, this book, this book. I have never been able to read a bell hooks and not be changed by it. The ways in which she writes about girlhood is incredibly beautiful and real. There are parts of her girlhood that resounded with me and mine. This book is precious to me. Thank you, bell hooks.
Renay
This ended up being WAY DARKER than I anticipated. It was sort of like a dead dove; do not eat situation. O.o

More thoughts: http://ladybusiness.dreamwidth.org/20...
...more
Annie Mahon
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed bell hook's memories of her childhood - it really gave me the feeling of a looking at adult life from a child's perspective and how strange it all seems.
Devin
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am not really familiar with bell hooks, but her name has been popping up more. Her real name is Gloria Jean Watkins; bell hooks is her pen name and is taken from her maternal great- grandmother.
I must have read someone’s To-Read list with Ms. hooks’s book All About Love included, and I marked it for myself. But it wasn’t in at the ICPL so I picked up Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood, her memoir, instead.
I found the book sad in that she was always always silenced as a young girl. But I also be
...more
Kim
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a very old type story of a girl growing up in segregated society with its conundrums, while also grappling with the effects of that segregation, i.e., the dysfunction that it creates in her family and community, plus dealing with her own aspirations, fears, confusion and her own sexuality, all against the backdrop, of how things are ‘supposed to be’ but does not work.

The chapters are short enough, a page and a half. However and nevertheless, each chapter says a lot. My favorites are Chap
...more
Christina
I had been looking for anything by bell hooks for awhile. For some reason she was calling my soul... and I'm so glad I found this book. It speaks to me in ways I can't fully articulate. I am grateful to have found this work now.

Written in concise 3 paged chapters, bell hooks takes us on a journey into her childhood. The chapters are all in various points of view (i.e., first, second or third), as readers are taken down this bumpy chronological ride about her upbringing. As a reader, you are thr
...more
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Black Coffee: Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood (June Autobiography GR) 18 30 Jul 17, 2016 05:16AM  

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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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