cover image ROCK MY SOUL: Black People and Self-Esteem

ROCK MY SOUL: Black People and Self-Esteem

bell hooks, . . Atria, $23 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-5605-0

Prolific cultural commentator hooks (Communion) returns with another timely, provocative book on a thorny issue currently being debated in the black community. While popular books by black conservatives place the lack of significant social progress squarely on the shoulders of African-Americans, hooks cleverly repositions the argument, stating articulately that the symptoms of the stagnation (e.g., violence, self-sabotage, malaise and symbolic suicide) are old challenges only intensified by ongoing government neglect, racism, psychological trauma and patriarchy. In typical hooks fashion, she employs diverse sources to provide support for her penetrating, frank views on the troubles that often block blacks from achieving healthy self-esteem. While she admits the power of white racism has lessened, she believes the transition from rigid segregation toward full integration has resulted in crippling emotional and psychological trauma, breeding fear, paranoia, self-hatred, self-doubt and addiction as blacks try to emulate whites and compete in the workplace. Her take on how revised mental health approaches can ease some of these ills is worthwhile and informative. Despite a tendency to repeat some key points, hooks is especially effective when she addresses the devastating toll of low self-esteem and self-hate on black women and families, linking much of the damage to traditional and religious values. With each new book, hooks is deeply exploring the inner terrain of the black community, calling for a return to sound values, self-love and commonsense solutions while seeking new ways to cope with a modern world gone slightly mad. Overall, this is one of hooks's best efforts in recent years. (Jan. 1)