Bell hooks’ “Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood” stitches together the memories of an African American girl growing up in the south with fine threads of innocence. This book deals at length with her journey growing up as a black girl in the south in the 1950s. She talks about the struggle to find herself in a delightful world of southern black culture that alternated between being paradisiacal and terrifying.
She tells her story in brief vignettes illuminating each element composed in that world describing her parents’ pressures in marriage that sometimes resulted in violence. Her extended family offered her a room where she would dream, but at the same time, the room gave her confusing cues of how to love in a black subculture.
As a little girl, hooks was a loner, a kid who loved books but with “too much spirit” for her father’s liking. In her grandmother and aunts, she had female role models who helped her prepare for life in a wild world. There is a lot she does not know while growing up. For instance, she was from a relatively poor family economically, but she didn’t understand for several years. She learned the role of women and men in the society. Her grandmother, Saru plays an influential figure in her childhood. She teaches her how to interpret dreams as well as telling her about her heritage as an African American woman. We also see the role that the church plays in her community; bringing the community together and the support and encouragement that a young girl can receive in the venue.
These sources of support play an essential role in hooks early life as she grows up feeling isolated from the community and her family. She refuses to accept that as a black girl she’s unworthy to have control of her life that it’s wrong to want something different from what her family or other black girls want. She shares the pain of the differences, the self-drive to rebel against those she loved. Her father would beat her with the approval of her mother so that she could grow up to be the kind of woman a man would want to marry.
Hooks is faced with injustices of sexism, racism, and classism as she negotiates adolescence. She rages over lack of privacy, the privacy to have her own time, explore her sexuality, and pour out her feelings in poems without worrying about what her family will think. We see the importance of books in her life. They make sense to her as well as preparing her to become a writer.