We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity by bell hooks

Date Read: February 23rd 2017

Published: 2003

Publisher: Routledge

Pages: 168

 The Blurb 

“When women get together and talk about men, the news is almost always bad news,” writes bell hooks. “If the topic gets specific and the focus is on black men, the news is even worse.”

In this powerful new book, bell hooks arrests our attention from the first page. Her title – We Real Cool, her subject–the way in which both white society and weak black leaders are failing black men and youth. Her subject is taboo: “this is a culture that does not love black males:” “they are not loved by white men, white women, black women, girls or boys. And especially, black men do not love themselves. How could they? How could they be expected to love, surrounded by so much envy, desire, and hate?”


Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I’m glad I’ve finally been able to complete a full body of hooks’s work instead of the select essays I was assigned to read in my college Sociology classes. Even though We Real Cool speaks predominantly about Black men, bell hooks definitely wrote this with feminism soaked into every single chapter.

We Real Cool (the title is taken from the Gwendolyn Brooks poem!) is an important, critical take on how the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy (yes, it’s a mouthful) affects the souls of Black boys & men – and by extension Black girls & women. Layered with many pop culture references and voices of various Black authors and social workers, bell hooks unapologetically asserts that Black masculinity is a reflection of white domination and provides some alternative ways/solutions Black men AND women can work together to overcome the damage and hurt, with love.

At times I couldn’t differentiate hooks’s (sometimes harsh) opinions from actual facts and some examples and stances she made seemed a bit outdated. But I really appreciated the personal examples of hurt and pain she provides, based off of her family life, while growing up.

I read We Real Cool last year as an e-book (as a pdf document, actually), and highlighted LOTS of quotes while reading; but they all disappeared when I rebooted my tablet *sigh*. Perhaps when I re-read this book, I’ll share the quotes I gathered, for those who still doubt the importance of hooks’s racial & gender analysis of our society today.

I came across an article by Derek Owusu, who is one-third of the literary podcast – MostlyLit: Black men are made to feel ugly, and we need to talk about it and immediately thought of hooks’s We Real Cool. Owusu’s article further echoes hooks’s stance on how imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy affects the souls of Black boys & men – only that, he doesn’t mention how Black girls and women are affected by extension. The article tackles the emotional challenges faced by Black British men when it comes to white standards of beauty and hyper-masculinity. I love a solution he brings forth, which encourages vulnerability among men (a state of being hooks also encourages, as a solution in We Real Cool)  –

But I feel if we are able to talk sincerely about the days when we feel undesirable, a whole new world of expression will open up thereafter and we’ll be on course for a healthier emotional life.  

There’s so much to say about this dense, complex book which ultimately aims at critiquing, loving and attempting to heal the hurts of Black men from a Black feminist lens. It’s a lot to absorb, but it’s important. Feed your soul and read some hooks!

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

Purchase We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity on Amazon

12 thoughts on “We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity by bell hooks

  1. Ah… interesting, so interesting, in the context of a book I’ve reviewed today for #IndigLitWeek (Indigenous Literature Week) at ANZ LitLovers. The book is called Dancing Home, and it’s a portrait of a Black man’s toxic masculinity.
    I’ve linked your review to mine (https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/07/08/dancing-home-by-paul-collis-bookreview/) because I think Bell Hooks’ critique possibly resonates in Australian indigenous communities too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Lisa! Very interesting. Thanks for linking your review. I will read it soon and see the connection to hooks’ work! Thanks for stopping by x


  2. Hi Darkowaa – There was a period when I was a kind of “bell hooks junkie,” and that part of my muscle memory bought a copy of we real cool several years ago, but for some reason I’ve never cracked it open. Sometimes it happens that I have to put distance between myself and my favorites…When you said that some of hooks’ stances seems harsh and outdated, I remember I felt that way when I read her critique of the film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Anyhoo, I’m glad you got around to writing this review – I always appreciate your perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leslie!! Thanks for reading the review. When you say ‘ Sometimes it happens that I have to put distance between myself and my favorites…’ – I felt that! hooks can be problematic in some of her harsh stances hahaa! We all have problematic faves and I’m now beginning to embrace that. I hope you read this one soon though. I’d like to read your perspective! I haven’t seen ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ – I will look it up!

      Liked by 1 person

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