The 22 essays in cultural and literary critic hooks's 17th book were written over a period of 20 years and loosely trace her decision to become a writer and her metamorphosis into an academic. Together, they constitute a mixture of intellectual autobiography and manifesto on the proper living of a writer's life. Although in some essays hooks ruminates on her childhood in a working-class Southern black family, many others read like transcripts of lectures for college courses in American literature (hooks has taught at Yale, Oberlin, and the City College of New York), complete with suggested readings. She frequently analyzes her own work alongside the writing of Toni Morrison, Emily Dickinson, Lorraine Hansberry and Jamaica Kincaid. (According to hooks, Kincaid is taken more seriously by ""mainstream"" critics because she is not African American and because ""writing by black writers who are not African-Americans tends to be seen as always more literary and therefore more valuable."") Some of the essays deal with the ""politics"" of publishing, the duplicity and rancorousness of academe and envy within the ranks of black writers. As always, hooks emphasizes the importance of personal and political identity to writing. Her prose is clear and she presents her arguments with a confident passion. If her politics are predictable, hooks infuses the best of these essays with a personal tone that sheds warm light on this one particular writer's writing life. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999 Release date: 01/01/1999 Genre: Nonfiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.