cover image Black Looks: Race and Representation

Black Looks: Race and Representation

bell hooks. South End Press, $15 (200pp) ISBN 978-0-89608-433-9

This latest collection from hooks ( Yearning ) contains a dozen recent essays on the representation of the African American experience, an area in which, she argues convincingly, little progress has been made. The author draws more effectively on her own experiences and sense of identity than do most other writers in the critical theory arena. Her gaze often falls on the ostensible recuperation of blackness into advertising, fashion and pop culture. She denounces white radicals' appropriation of an African American Other that revels in the oneness of a ``primitive'' people with nature. As she points out, the next step in that process is the commodification of the ``primitive'' by consumer culture. In other essays hooks offers brilliant analyses of the Hill-Thomas hearings and of Madonna, forcing readers to confront issues of race and representation that fans of the Material Girl would probably rather ignore and revealing the underlying reactionary bent of her music and videos. Equally striking is hooks's linkage of feminism and gay and lesbian liberation to black liberation, with a resulting rejection of a narrow and facile nationalism. Imbued with hooks's theoretical rigor, intellectual integrity, breadth of knowledge and passion, this book is a necessary read for anyone concerned with race in America. (Aug.)