Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism

Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism

As far as intellectuals go, author bell hooks is one that outpaces all others. In her work, “Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism,” hooks engages in conversation with Chicana artist, Amalia Mesa-Bains. Spanning topics like creativity, power, and politics, the pair work through difficult topics and present them in a way that challenges the reader and forces them to evaluate the relationship between minorities and our society today. The book’s overarching theme is the effort of society to separate and polarize both Latinos and African Americans, illustrating and emphasizing differences in an effort to create a “preferred minority.” With two views on the topic that come from both sides of the coin, readers can truly get the whole story and make up their minds on their own.

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What is power? What is it like to be a favored minority but still not part of the greater society? In “Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism,” bell hooks engages with Chicana artist Amalia Mesa-Bains to explore the polarization of Latino and African Americans within the greater society. The pair look at how society has worked to push both Latino and African American individuals away all while preferring one minority over the other. The book is organized as a series of reflections or segments rather than one large story.

In Witness, the pair work to help readers determine which differences are real and which have been fabricated to create the perception of vast differences further. They discuss their similarities and differences from the way their childhood shaped their career paths, political activism, expression, and more. Rather than give in to the perception that Latinos and African Americans are inherently different from White society as well as different from one another, hooks and Mesa-Bains work to show how people that are from different backgrounds that are seemingly divergent and different, can ultimately work together to affect radical change.

For the most part, African Americans and Latinos are being pushed further and further apart by the rest of society but hooks calls for a united front and a unified collaboration to make a change and to make things different. hooks and Mesa-Bains make an interesting juxtaposition of a Chicana artist that is known for incredibly moving pieces that incorporate both the history of Chicana culture with an inherent air of feminism while hooks is ever the intellectual and presents concise and well-written statements that force the reader to really think.

If you are looking for a bit of light reading, this is not going to be the piece for you. If you are looking for something to challenge the norms and challenge all that you have come to know, this is a fantastic read that presents issues in a logical order that helps readers to flow from one topic to another. As always, hooks presents the impact of racism, sexism, and other emotional topics and forces the reader to truly face these critical issues. For readers wanting to challenge what they know and truly work toward a new sense of self and a new awareness, “Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism” is a good read.


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