remembered rapture: the writer at work Paperback – Nov 15 1999
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
African American women writers, being both black and female, face challenges that the rest of us might never have even considered. While this essay collection is ultimately a celebration of the writing life and of the writers author bell hooks (who signs her name with lower-case letters) cites as inspirational, it also illuminates the issues she and other black women writers have to contend with in their careers. Hooks has been criticized for, among other things, being incredibly prolific (she has been called "the Joyce Carol Oates of black feminist writing") and for her scope: "Black writers," says hooks, "always have difficulty gaining recognition for a body of work if anything we do is eclectic." Though hooks does take her critics to task, she is more concerned with confronting a system that seems determined to work against black women--and other minority--writers. She is critical of publishers for throwing the largest advances and promotional efforts at white male authors. She complains that "when writers from marginalized groups do work that is truly marvelous," the literary establishment is likely to see that work as a "rare exception." And she even rails against black women writers themselves, saying that "Nothing diminishes our efforts to gain a greater hearing for nonfiction by black women more than the severe dismissals of this work by black women."
Autobiography is one form of writing that hooks feels is particularly difficult for black women writers, most of whom come from families that never previously "had to think about whether a relative would write something about their lives." In fact, she says, autobiographical writing is troublesome for writers who do not "come from class backgrounds where there are rituals of public confession like psychoanalysis." As a child, says hooks, "talking openly outside the family about any aspect of family life was considered a form of treason." Now, though her family is proud of her and pleased that she has not forsaken her origins, she says, "writing about my life has created an emotional distance between me and my parents. An intimacy we once shared is gone." --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
Her observations are wise. Her grasp of history is absolute. Her ideas stimulate intelligent and loving thought, conversation, and action. Read this book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Her observations are wise. Her grasp of history is absolute. Her ideas stimulate intelligent and loving thought, conversation, and action. Read this book.
Death seems to stalk black women who write. Hooks points to Audrey Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, Lorraine Hansberry, and others who died quite young. This is another reason why the writer must use her time deligently: she does not know when her time will be over. It is also a reason to write autobiographical work, so we'll know something about you, the writer, when you're dead. We still know very little about the life of Zora Neal Hurston, hooks says.
You can already see there are many writers about whom hooks thinks. The author's habitus includes: Matthew Fox on spirtuality, Dorothy Allison on growing up poor or working class, Cornel West on race, Tillie Olsen on class, Jeanette Winterson, Ann Petry, Emily Dickenson and more.
From childhood, hooks was eager to write: first poetry and diaries, then fiction, and later the critical non-fiction for which she is so well-known. (Did you know that bell hooks wrote her first book, Ain't I a Woman, when she was nineteen?) She observes that once you are pegged into one genre of writing, say that of the critical essay, it is unlikely that you will be able to cross over into other genres successfully. This is not because you will not be good at different kinds of writing. This is because publishers, critics, and the academy will see you as a writer of critical essays, end of story. Hooks says she revolts against these divides.
This is an example of the kinds of insight hooks offers about the institutional apparatus which surrounds your solitary efforts, even now. I'm not convinced that the world is always as she sees it. I'm also not willing to let what could be the wisdom of experience in the academy and in publishing pass me by without giving it some thought, like: what kind of writing would I like to be associated with? When people see your name in print, do you want people to say, "That's that funny/insightful/bookish/concise/unfathomable poet/scientist/essayist/scholar"?
Here is some of what I learned from hooks in Remembering Rapture, starkly rendered here for the sake of space though they are subtlely offered in the text:
Tips for (women) becoming a (great) writer, gleaned from bell hooks:
>>Write as if you are dying. What better way to make you use your time wisely? Who knows when you will be able to write no more, and you want to leave your trace, don't you?
>>Don't be a bore: essay writing can and should be creative, though it usually is not.
>>Write yourself into the text. From feminism we've learned that writing that does not use the pronoun "I" is not necessarily more objective. Scholarly writing can include "I".
>>It's YOUR story! When writing autobiographical work, or any work that relies on your version of events, remember that the way you remember events will differ from the way other people do (and that's okay!)
>>Don't ruin your mother's life! When writing autobiographical work, or other stories with real people in them, there are ethical questions you must consider in writing about the lives of other people
>> If you are a woman, expect to confront sexism. (Sorry to state the obvious.) Eg. asking women to think about how their writing will affect their children is sexist
>>Teach at a CEGEP (a college, in most juristictions outside Quebec): choose intellectual life over academic careerism (hooks teaches at the oh-so-prestigious City College of New York. Ever hear of it? Me either. But, she chose to work there because she can be a thinker there and at the same time teach young black people, which is important in her own politics.)
>>Get some smart friends. As a writer, you must have much solitary time to contemplate and to work. But you also need to have good conversations to stimulate your creativity.
>>Celebrate words. Choosing the right words is so powerful, as we who work in the mighty field of communication know. For example, hooks does not call herself a "black feminist" because these words participate in legitimizing a separate-but-equal feminism.
>>Show how brilliant you are by articulating your points so that a wide audience can understand them. Don't use language to obscure meaning. The point is not to render ideas less complex - the point is to make the complex clear.
>>Value your audience and know who they are! Who do you speak to? Let them stimulate your writing by communicating with you about things you've said.
>>IF YOU ARE A WOMAN, WRITE! NO WOMAN CAN WRITE TOO MUCH BECAUSE WOMEN HAVE NOT WRITTEN ENOUGH.
I'm still pondering some of the things hooks comes out with in this book, but I defintely like the "throw down" style of it - one that is also in her other essays. ( That's one of the uses that the writer can make of the short essay, says hooks!)
On the point of writing yourself into your work: I'd be willing to bet pecunia to pens and paper that hooks will make you think that you should write a bit of your own autobiography in whatever else you write. I have not been comfortable with this technique, instead adopting a dispassionate authorial voice over material that I have often felt passionate about. Hooks really makes me want to think and write about, as she works to do within her own conditions of living, how being a white woman from a working class background is interwoven with whatever else I choose to study. She asks those who are aspiring to write within academic venues if we're also apiring to betray our roots. Are you writing work that edifies who you are, or who you would like to become? But more about what this has to do with ME when I reflect on my own writing. . .see, this book allows you to reflect.
Finally, if you are a writer, writing should be a pleasure. The craft of writing is hard work, but if you feel that rapture when the work is done and the words are beaming out from the page, perhaps you are a writer after all.
She wrote in the Preface to this 1999 book, “Writing these essays about writing has intensified my understanding and appreciation of the writer at work. This work was written to share the dimensions of my writing life that take place behind the scenes. Written from the standpoint of cultural critic, literary scholar, and/or creative writer, these essays probe and examine. They interrogate. Some are academic in tone, others are polemical or playful or just plain celebratory. They span a period of twenty years. Significantly, issues that were relevant and key when I first began writing are still central… many of the essays in this collection emerged as responses to readers who wanted to know more about how the work came to be what it is and other less gentle interrogators who found my engagement with writing suspect.” (Pg. xi)
She continues, “In many of these essays I grapple with the issue ow public work as an intellectual in and outside and academy and that space of writing that is always intimate, private, solitary… As a still emergent group of writers… black women grapple continually with the suspicions of a larger literary world that is still not confident we are serious thinkers and writers… I address these issues in ‘Remembered Rapture’ because the marketplace has discovered our words are a useful commodity and eagerly seeks to push our work only in the direction of profit and gain.” (Pg. xii-xiii)
In one essay, she notes, ”[Zora Neale] Hurston’s first biographer was white and male. When his book was published, he openly admitted that he felt there were blind spots in his perspective and stated that he looked forward to the progressive interpretive visions of women scholars, particularly black women, could bring to Hurston’s life and work. Such work has yet to appear.” (Pg. 25-26)
She explains, “Often the suggestion that I am writing ‘too much’ comes from black women wo have either written very little or not as much as they want to write. Fortunately I have never had to write to make a living. As a consequence I have always only written on subjects that intrigue and fascinate me… The continued success of the writing, the accolades it brings as well as the financial rewards seem to be most disturbing to the critical observers…” (Pg. 29-30)
In her ‘Dancing with Words’ essay, she shares, “I am still transported, carried away by writing and reading. Writing longhand the first drafts of all my work, I read aloud to myself. Performing the words to both hear and feel them, I want to be certain I am grappling with language in a manner where my words live and breathe…” (Pg. 36) She adds, “In my own imagination, this process of thinking and writing is affirmed by the Buddhist vision of interior arrangement, where one strives to create a particular atmosphere with aesthetic minimalism, with an eye for simplicity.” (Pg. 40)
She recalls, “In the all-black schools of my childhood there had never been any doubt that we have equal access to the world of the imaginary… No one had ever suggested that being black, female, or working-class would stand in my way. No wonder then that I cherish the memory of those all-black schools where no one ever thought my love of Dickinson and Wordsworth was strange, where no one ever questioned my right to love great literature no matter who had written it.” (Pg. 48) Later, she adds, “there is no black literature, only literature that conveys our experience as black people. There is no feminist writer, only the writer who writes from a feminist perspective.” (Pg. 56-57)
She reveals, “As a young adult able to be critical of Christianity, I searched for a spiritual path that would offer an alternative to the fall/redemption model. That search led me to teachings and to spiritual leaders and guides who taught me about other paths. I learned about the mystical dimensions of Islam, studied about Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religious traditions. My current spiritual practice grows out of a combination of various traditions. Drawn to the teachings of Buddha, I practice yoga and meditation. That aspect of Christian faith I most cling to is the emphasis on prayer. And from the teachings of Sufi mystics, I learned how to understand Love as divine energy in the universe.” (Pg. 111-112)
Later in this essay, she explains, “When I first published a chapbook of poems… I had chosen to use as a pseudonym my great-grandmothers name, Bell Hooks. Though there were many reasons for choosing and keeping a pen name, the one I seldom talked about was my religious belief that it was important to deflect away from self and ego.” (Pg. 114)
Often much more intimate and “personal” than most of her other books, this book will be “must reading” for those of us who love hooks’ writings, as well as those who want to read the thoughts of a prominent writer and “public intellectual” on writing, as well as other subjects.
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Arts & Literature > Authors
- Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Ethnic & National > African-American & Black
- Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Specific Groups > Women
- Books > Education & Reference > Writing, Research & Publishing Guides > Publishing & Books > Authorship
- Books > Education & Reference > Writing, Research & Publishing Guides > Writing > Writing Skills
- Books > Literature & Fiction > Books & Reading > Women Writers & Feminist Theory
- Books > Literature & Fiction > Classics > United States
- Books > Literature & Fiction > Essays
- Books > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > United States
- Books > Literature & Fiction > United States > African American
- Books > Literature & Fiction > United States > Classics
- Books > Literature & Fiction > United States > History & Criticism
- Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Women's Studies > Women Writers