cover image Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life

Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life

bell hooks. Henry Holt & Company, $20 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4146-0

In a consistently fresh and bravely honest voice, hooks relates her early development as a feminist writer and scholar and examines the struggle to practice in her private life what she supports in theory. On the more personal level, the book centers on her liaison with a man seven years her senior named Mack, whom she credits with encouraging her to write and publish her first book, Ain't I a Woman. With remarkable evenhandedness she examines the 15-year-long life and then death of their relationship, experiences that are testament to the power of the past: even as she leaves Mack, she laments, ""Inside me I am still the country girl who never goes anywhere."" But hooks traces other influences on her early intellectual and literary development, and particularly her shock at discovering that while gender and class were considered to be important elements in academia, race was virtually ignored. The present-tense, first-person narrative is occasionally interrupted by italicized passages in the third person. These shifts are initially jarring, but their purpose soon becomes clear: they relate painful information. Perhaps that detachment is what allows hooks to cover difficult memories without a trace of bitterness. Hooks straddles two worlds admirably, writing with great insight about both academia and the world beyond. But her greatest achievement here is the open-ended question of whether it is possible to live what we believe. ""No one really says how it will be. When we try to leave behind all the limits of race and gender and class, to transcend them, to get to the heart of the matter."" (Oct.)