Review by Stacie C.
You’ll never hear a story from me about a book that made me a reader. I’ve always been a reader. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book in my hand. My memories from my childhood are filled with books. What I can tell you about is how books have always changed my world. They have always helped shape me and mold me. That’s one of the reasons I love reading. I carry books with me all the time in my thoughts and in my actions. Books have power and in saying that I can admit that authors have power. It is their words within the pages that have such a profound effect. I’m always thankful to the authors. And I feel like this essay is becoming a thank you to one person in particular, whose words as of late have lit a torch inside of me and helped me cope with issues that I have been struggling with for far too long. bell hooks wrote Killing Rage: Ending Racism two decades ago. It wasn’t until last year, shortly after the election that I found myself devouring her words. Each essay touching upon a subject that related directly to me as a black woman. Imagine my astonishment in realizing that the issues she so eloquently describes two decades ago, when I was a young girl, not even a teenager are still relevant to me now a grown woman of 30.
I am not alone. These problems are not mine alone. I am not the only woman, black woman, black feminist, who feels these emotions, who’s experiencing these situations. It is not just me. It has never been just me. I am standing on the backs of giants who have been fighting for change, whose literature is waiting to be read, whose words are there to encourage and strengthen me. I don’t know if I can adequately state the relief I felt when reading these words. I took numerous sighs of relief. I mumbled “yes” time and time again to myself because this book was decades old and it applied to me.
Then I just felt disheartened for a while because I realized that the only thing that had changed with the passage of time was my age. I was now sitting in the space that the woman before me had been and that in this seat the view hadn’t changed. If things had changed then I wouldn’t be able to relate so viscerally with everything that was on those pages. What bell hooks did with Killing Rage is awaken in me a determination to identify myself openly as a black feminist, define what that means to me and speak out. I have to be comfortable discussing my own narrative!
But it can’t end there. hooks stated “I must engage in struggle with all willing comrades to strengthen our awareness and our resistance.” And this is the moment when my eyes opened and I realized that I needed to wake up. I’ve always been aware of the issues that exist in this society because I have always existed in this society where I’m judged by my skin, my gender, my relationships. I’m judged simply because I exist. I can no longer exist without engaging with the people around me. I am no longer okay with others feeling comfortable with a system that is tearing my world steadily apart. Because I am not alone and only by building things together will things change.
What Killing Rage did for me, it might not do for you. I realized within the first few pages that reading this book would change me. I was ready for the change. And I am so grateful that this book came into my life at the time that it did. I was ready for the words and I was in a mental state to receive the message and the truth she was trying to deliver. And now I carry it with me, in my mind, like I do so many other great books. It continues to resonate in my life, because it is so relevant to my life. hooks has unknowingly become a pivotal force in my life. I couldn’t be more grateful for her presence.
Killing Rage by bell hooks, Holt Paperbacks 1996
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Stacie C. is a book reviewer and co-founder of the Litsy Feminist Book Club. She is one of the editors of Books that Shook Us