During the last days of her life, bell hooks was most concerned with the peace she found between meditation and prayer. She spoke with conviction about the importance of faith. Nadra Nittle's bell hooks' Spiritual Vision is important in that it highlights one of the most overlooked aspects of her personal politics--the spiritual foundation of her feminist and Baptist-informed Buddhist practice. Nittle provides the insight we need to honor hooks' holistic approach to her theoretical interventions.
When Black feminist and scholar bell hooks died in 2021, she was widely remembered for writing more than three dozen books across genres including memoir, poetry, theory, and criticism. However, it was her book Ain't I a Woman, in which hooks examines how Black American women have historically faced gender, class, and racial oppression, that catapulted her to prominence as a leading feminist thinker.
Nadra Nittle makes it clear that hooks identified not only as a feminist but also as a Buddhist Christian. In bell hooks' Spiritual Vision, Nittle recounts how hooks kept her spiritual practice private for years, fearing there was no room to discuss her faith in the feminist movement or in the academy. Ultimately, hooks decided to talk and write about her faith to give hope to students curious about her source of strength in a society she deemed an ""imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.""
Nittle traces the influences of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh as hooks developed a spiritual practice centered on love as a force for social change. Although hooks opened up about her spiritual philosophy in the last decades of her life, Nittle argues that hooks's contributions to religious discourse are largely unheralded. bell hooks' Spiritual Vision reflects her identity as a feminist and a believer who knit together her political and spiritual practices.
This book offers readers a window into spirituality's role in hooks' writing on her life, love, feminism, and society. It speaks both to hooks's longtime followers and to newcomers to her writing. Regardless of their starting points, readers will get to know bell hooks for all she was--Buddhist, Christian, and feminist.
- Publisher Fortress Press
- Format Paperback
- ISBN 9781506488363
- eBook ISBN 9781506488370
- Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
- Pages 147
- Publication Date November 7, 2023
Lynnée Denise, friend and confidant of bell hooks
Nadra Nittle draws the reader in with an invitation to an intimate engagement, more like a conversation, with bell hooks the person, the author, and with the depth and nuances of her spirituality. Nittle offers an impeccable narrative of the profound figure and voice that is bell hooks that compels the reader to engage hooks beyond intellectual analysis but with their whole body, mind, and emotions. There is a hopefulness that Nittle brings out that can be gleaned from hooks' writing and the spiritual philosophy that guided her life. As Nittle traces the lineage to hooks' spirituality to both the pain and affirmations from her youth, I felt myself at times lamenting, while feeling empowered by hooks' honest cultural criticism and inspired by her unapologetic aspirations for a love ethic rooted in spirituality as a social force.
Phil Allen Jr., author of Open Wounds: A Story of Racial Tragedy, Trauma, and Redemption and The Prophetic Lens: The Camera and Black Moral Agency from MLK to Darnella Frazier
Nadra Nittle's bell hooks' Spiritual Vision: Buddhist, Christian, and Feminist is a thoughtful, intentional, and sensitive work that uplifts bell hooks as a theologian. Nittle, in her succinct reporting style, mixed with her own journey of meeting the late hooks once, grounds readers in how prolific a writer hooks was on everything from feminism to love and men--and how all of this writing was grounded in the spiritual. Nittle takes seriously, like other Black writers she cites throughout, bell hooks the theologian. Whether you are engaging with hooks for the first or tenth time, bell hooks' Spiritual Vision: Buddhist, Christian, and Feminist is a must-read.
Olga Marina Segura, author of Birth of a Movement: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church
A sweeping overview of the cultural, political, and religious forces at work prior to and during bell hooks' lifetime, Nittle's book situates hooks' development of a syncretic and hybridized spirituality in concert with her growth into one of the preeminent feminist theorists and writers of our era. Nittle argues that hooks married spirituality and feminism successfully, creating a healing place for herself and blazing trails for the rest of us to follow. Nittle puts hooks' detractors and hooks' writing in conversation, pointing out how her opponents failed to account for the entirety and complexity of her work. It is, at times, delicious. From Beyoncé to Emma Watson, Spike Lee to Thích Nhất Hạnh, this book examines the range of hooks' influence and reach. No one is immune from her consideration, and Nittle argues that everything hooks did and wrote was animated by a fierce commitment to love as action and spirituality as liberation. Refusing to simplify or flatten out hooks' complex body of work, Nittle does justice to the beauty and power of hooks' hard-won belief systems and urges us to engage with hooks' writing in a world increasingly riven by ideological extremism and purposeful misrepresentations of feminist spiritualities. Dialectical, oppositional, accessible, insightful, informative, fascinating, nimble, incisive, and heartening, Nittle's book is both homage and love song.
Beth Feagan, MFA, assistant professor, general studies, Berea College
This carefully researched and beautifully written look at the spiritual life of one of our finest writers and intellectuals is a complex and valuable addition to writing about the inimitable bell hooks. Nadra Nittle introduces readers to hooks in a way in which she is too rarely shown, and does so with complexity, grace, and wisdom. I'm so glad this book exists.
Silas House, author of Lark Ascending