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Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery

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When Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery was originally released in 1994, it won critical praise and solidified bell hooks’ reputation as one of the leading public intellectuals of her generation. Today, the book is considered a classic in African American and feminist circles. In Sisters of the Yam, hooks examines how the emotional health of black women is wo When Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery was originally released in 1994, it won critical praise and solidified bell hooks’ reputation as one of the leading public intellectuals of her generation. Today, the book is considered a classic in African American and feminist circles. In Sisters of the Yam, hooks examines how the emotional health of black women is wounded by daily assaults of racism and sexism. Exploring such central life issues as work, beauty, trauma, addiction, eroticism and estrangement from nature, hooks shares numerous strategies for self-recovery and healing. She also shows how black women can empower themselves and effectively struggle against racism, sexism and consumer capitalism. As hooks’ first book on psychological concerns, Sisters of the Yam paved the way for her more recent and popular writing on love, relationships and community. This South End Press Classics Edition will include a new introduction. Praise for Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery: “By confronting topics avoided in polite company—including progressive black folks—hooks helps us tackle our deepest fears, those we harbor about our self-worth as African Americans, and get on with the business of becoming.”—Village Voice Literary Supplement “hooks continues to produce some of the most challenging, insightful, and provocative writing on race and gender in the United States today.”—Library Journal “[bell hooks] draws more effectively on her own experiences and sense of identity than . . . most other writers.”—Publishers Weekly


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When Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery was originally released in 1994, it won critical praise and solidified bell hooks’ reputation as one of the leading public intellectuals of her generation. Today, the book is considered a classic in African American and feminist circles. In Sisters of the Yam, hooks examines how the emotional health of black women is wo When Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery was originally released in 1994, it won critical praise and solidified bell hooks’ reputation as one of the leading public intellectuals of her generation. Today, the book is considered a classic in African American and feminist circles. In Sisters of the Yam, hooks examines how the emotional health of black women is wounded by daily assaults of racism and sexism. Exploring such central life issues as work, beauty, trauma, addiction, eroticism and estrangement from nature, hooks shares numerous strategies for self-recovery and healing. She also shows how black women can empower themselves and effectively struggle against racism, sexism and consumer capitalism. As hooks’ first book on psychological concerns, Sisters of the Yam paved the way for her more recent and popular writing on love, relationships and community. This South End Press Classics Edition will include a new introduction. Praise for Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery: “By confronting topics avoided in polite company—including progressive black folks—hooks helps us tackle our deepest fears, those we harbor about our self-worth as African Americans, and get on with the business of becoming.”—Village Voice Literary Supplement “hooks continues to produce some of the most challenging, insightful, and provocative writing on race and gender in the United States today.”—Library Journal “[bell hooks] draws more effectively on her own experiences and sense of identity than . . . most other writers.”—Publishers Weekly

30 review for Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery

  1. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I had the honor of having Gloria Watkins ("bell hooks") as a professor at Yale. I was actually one of the Sisters of the Yams, a group on campus. I come back to this book often. The main lesson I got from this book is that if you are not happy in a place, get up and leave. It's the way I live my life. Definitely a great read. I had the honor of having Gloria Watkins ("bell hooks") as a professor at Yale. I was actually one of the Sisters of the Yams, a group on campus. I come back to this book often. The main lesson I got from this book is that if you are not happy in a place, get up and leave. It's the way I live my life. Definitely a great read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rowena

    I am a huge fan of this woman. I find so much healing and understanding in her words. I admire her candidness in acknowledging issues that are often just swept under the rug. She is one of the first academics I came across who considers the black experience in fields that often take the human condition as a homogeneous one. I feel so many black women would appreciate this book so much. Alongside Alice Walker's books, this is a good companion for black women's self-actualization, and the realizat I am a huge fan of this woman. I find so much healing and understanding in her words. I admire her candidness in acknowledging issues that are often just swept under the rug. She is one of the first academics I came across who considers the black experience in fields that often take the human condition as a homogeneous one. I feel so many black women would appreciate this book so much. Alongside Alice Walker's books, this is a good companion for black women's self-actualization, and the realization that we have to heal and continue the struggle as well. Her book was written in 1993 so a few points are a bit dated and obsolete but it is still great. Some quotes: "Such wounds do not manifest themselves only in material ways, they effect our psychological well-being. Black people are wounded in our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits. "Everywhere black women live in the world, we eat yam. It is a symbol of our diasporic connections. Yams provide nourishment for the body as food yet they are also used medicinally- to heal the body." Collective healing "Traditional therapy, mainstream psychoanalytical practices, often do not consider "race" an important issue, and as a result do not adequately address the mental-health dilemmas of black people."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Spines

    Brilliant. As a long-time bell hooks fan, it took me a while to read this one. I was in search of a self-help style book and had tried a few out when I realized that none of them adequately reflected my experiences as a black woman. Why I hadn't turned to hooks sooner is beyond me. While the book doesn't PERFECTLY reflect my experience, since hooks is of African-American heritage and I myself am of Caribbean heritage, and since hooks was raised poor while I experienced a degree of class privilege Brilliant. As a long-time bell hooks fan, it took me a while to read this one. I was in search of a self-help style book and had tried a few out when I realized that none of them adequately reflected my experiences as a black woman. Why I hadn't turned to hooks sooner is beyond me. While the book doesn't PERFECTLY reflect my experience, since hooks is of African-American heritage and I myself am of Caribbean heritage, and since hooks was raised poor while I experienced a degree of class privilege, it is, one of the best self-help books I have ever read. Also, I'm not necessarily on the same page as hooks where religion and spirituality is concerned, but even still, these parts of the book resonated with me. If you are in any way lost in your life and particularly if you are a black woman, I would recommend this book to you.

  4. 5 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    Yo what can I say! Sister bell hooks is a legend. This book dropped gem after gem. So much quality content. Like real talks, if you're a sister on a spiritual journey, get into this. I try to separate the people from the text where I can because if you follow all the stories about people it'll fuck with your head. However, what I will say is that the content in this book is a necessary must read for my black women who are feeling out of sorts. It's a great place to centre and organize just for y Yo what can I say! Sister bell hooks is a legend. This book dropped gem after gem. So much quality content. Like real talks, if you're a sister on a spiritual journey, get into this. I try to separate the people from the text where I can because if you follow all the stories about people it'll fuck with your head. However, what I will say is that the content in this book is a necessary must read for my black women who are feeling out of sorts. It's a great place to centre and organize just for you. Just for you, sis. More times we gotta do things just for us because we ain't getting any younger and the world ain't never on our side. RIP Breonna Taylor and any other young black woman who has tragically lost her life, when she had just begun living, for some completely senseless reason. I love us and we need to take care of ourselves, our emotional states, our souls. Shit is real, shit is really real.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe

    This is a hard book to rate. I'm not sure why? Maybe because it's not really about enjoyment, it's about life and how to weave through the layers of injustice, abuse, confusion, and fear to live with awareness and confidence and love, in community. In particular, this book is for black women - grand and great-grand children of American slavery and apartheid. Broadly, anyone can take from it hook's wisdom and sisterly care. Also, I appreciated how ms. hooks quotes from and draws on so many works This is a hard book to rate. I'm not sure why? Maybe because it's not really about enjoyment, it's about life and how to weave through the layers of injustice, abuse, confusion, and fear to live with awareness and confidence and love, in community. In particular, this book is for black women - grand and great-grand children of American slavery and apartheid. Broadly, anyone can take from it hook's wisdom and sisterly care. Also, I appreciated how ms. hooks quotes from and draws on so many works of literature and non-fiction --of both the black American and self-help and recovery cannons. This book is one to come back to, a study.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aisha

    A self-help book geared specifically towards black women - it's about time! What a phenomenal book and incredible woman. I'm sure this work has helped a lot of black women in their self-recovery process. What I don't understand is why more books like this don't exist. hooks's caring and insight make reading this book an enlightening experience. Even if you don't agree with everything she has to say, there is at least one thing you can relate to. Recommend it to sistas worldwide! A self-help book geared specifically towards black women - it's about time! What a phenomenal book and incredible woman. I'm sure this work has helped a lot of black women in their self-recovery process. What I don't understand is why more books like this don't exist. hooks's caring and insight make reading this book an enlightening experience. Even if you don't agree with everything she has to say, there is at least one thing you can relate to. Recommend it to sistas worldwide!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Helena Brantley

    I first read Sisters of the Yam in my 20's and for years it lived on my nightstand. Nearly 20 years later, it has been eye-opening to re-read the pages I highlighted back then and how large parts of this book are still relevant and helpful. With so many recent headlines about feminist thoughts, anniversaries, leaning in, and leaning out, much of it omitting issues of race and class, I wanted to re-read this book about feminism and about healing from a black women's perspective. I continue to giv I first read Sisters of the Yam in my 20's and for years it lived on my nightstand. Nearly 20 years later, it has been eye-opening to re-read the pages I highlighted back then and how large parts of this book are still relevant and helpful. With so many recent headlines about feminist thoughts, anniversaries, leaning in, and leaning out, much of it omitting issues of race and class, I wanted to re-read this book about feminism and about healing from a black women's perspective. I continue to give thanks for bell hooks, nearly 20 years after first discovering her writing as a young, single, woman living outside of Washington, DC.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Samara

    My friend Jackie recommended this book so many years ago. Yet, it is a standout and a "must read" for all women of color. Self love is s crucial to our well being. bell hooks continues to uplift and support "the sisterhood." My friend Jackie recommended this book so many years ago. Yet, it is a standout and a "must read" for all women of color. Self love is s crucial to our well being. bell hooks continues to uplift and support "the sisterhood."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    Wow, what a book! It's a bit out dated but still much of what bell mentions is still relevant today. Over all 4.5stars. Wow, what a book! It's a bit out dated but still much of what bell mentions is still relevant today. Over all 4.5stars.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cookie

    This book is amazing, as it forces me to look in the mirror to address trauma as I journey to infinite healing. It’s like the Auntie that really wants you to be healed and move onward with your life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessa

    recovery for all...and thoughts for a new path forward

  12. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    A must read for all Black women.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kay F.

    “The art and practice of loving begins with our capacity to recognize and affirm ourselves.” Everyone should read this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Brooks

    Exceptionally written self-help for book for black women. It is comprehensive and deep, and yet approachable for the reader. hooks explores are trauma and is honest about what it will take for us to heal.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nico

    Excellent book. I have been interested in hooks’ writing about recovery and healing, and of recovery literature.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beverlee

    I'm not sure if I can articulate how important this book is to me, especially at this particular moment. I read Sisters Of The Yam at a time where I have to make a decision that will have a lasting impact- choice to further education, apply for a new position, or attempt both. Reviewing a passage from chapter 3 from a sister who was interviewed " you don't just work to get money, you work to create meaning for yourself and other people" is affirming my personal beliefs that one should never let I'm not sure if I can articulate how important this book is to me, especially at this particular moment. I read Sisters Of The Yam at a time where I have to make a decision that will have a lasting impact- choice to further education, apply for a new position, or attempt both. Reviewing a passage from chapter 3 from a sister who was interviewed " you don't just work to get money, you work to create meaning for yourself and other people" is affirming my personal beliefs that one should never let a job be their identity and that whatever work you do should have meaning. Another key point in self recovery is the ability to live well. hooks explores an idea that is revolutionary (in my opinion anyway) that black women are entitled to live well. Society's definition of live well differs along racial and gender stereotypes, but hooks explains it as "we feel empowered to make changes, to break with old patterns." There is a huge responsibility with living well, essentially being proactive about how your live vs being reactionary. The closing chapter, Walking in the Spirit, is not only about being able to connect with a higher power, but healing oneself in solitude. A black woman should embrace oneness as a time to hear God, to renew our spirit. I am definitely in favor of feeling my best, so I can present positive energy to people I encounter and the community at large.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Atakpa

    imperative read for everyone. engages mental illness, ecology, addiction, right livelihood (work/labor), beauty, reconciliation, etc. names a nexus of critical affirmation, communal survival, regeneration, and love as self-recovery “when we choose to heal, when we choose to love, we are choosing liberation.”

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jamia

    womanist theology at its best. this book has healing power. i refer to it again and again, to remain empowered, focused, strong, and loving... the perfect merging of political call to action and self-help book. hooks is amazing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Travis Martin

    really thought-provoking. (secretly i used this to bait feminist black girls on the subway. no one bit!)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    A smart read, I wouldnt suggest trying to read it in one sitting. I would also suggest journaling your thoughts after each chapter.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shernell

    Really great book to help with self-reflection and healing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tifanny Burks

    This book was everything I needed it to be and more. I suffer from severe depression but I don’t use medication or see a therapist therefore I practice affordable and holistic ways to take care of my mental health and reading is one of my healing methods. This is not your typical capitalistic white-supremacist self-help book. I am actually more inclined to called it an inner-help book, the author talked a lot about inner-love versus self-love. Inner-love talks about personal healing, once you he This book was everything I needed it to be and more. I suffer from severe depression but I don’t use medication or see a therapist therefore I practice affordable and holistic ways to take care of my mental health and reading is one of my healing methods. This is not your typical capitalistic white-supremacist self-help book. I am actually more inclined to called it an inner-help book, the author talked a lot about inner-love versus self-love. Inner-love talks about personal healing, once you heal yourself, you heal your community and you heal the world. Sisters of the Yam started as a small Healing group that use to meet in bell’s office. We need each other and to be in community to heal. White supremacy and capitalism wants us to believe we are suffering so much due to our personal failures and this books works to debunk that. Definitely on a journey to read more inner-help books written by black women. Thank you for Sisters of The Yam for being everything I needed, right when I needed it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maija Hall

    So many insightful takeaways from Sisters of the Yam and ideas to chew on! hooks uses an array of references to Black women's fiction, self-help concepts and spiritual theory to highlight the critical relationship between self-actualization and political resistance. She tackles Black family dynamics, spirituality, sex and sexuality, and the experiences of Black women who internalize and metabolize pain and suffering as an identity and practice. This is a must read for anyone (not just Black wome So many insightful takeaways from Sisters of the Yam and ideas to chew on! hooks uses an array of references to Black women's fiction, self-help concepts and spiritual theory to highlight the critical relationship between self-actualization and political resistance. She tackles Black family dynamics, spirituality, sex and sexuality, and the experiences of Black women who internalize and metabolize pain and suffering as an identity and practice. This is a must read for anyone (not just Black women) looking to connect personal growth to justice work and looking to heal from the manifestations of heteropatriarchy and the residues of slavery in their lives.

  24. 5 out of 5

    B Sarv

    I read this book and found it to be the most enlightening book since I finished Baldwin's "No Name in the Street." This mind-opening book, subtitled "black women and self recovery" really is a book everyone should read. It was written about 20 years after Baldwin's work mentioned above and is even more relevant today so many years later. It is a manual for resistance against the forces of domination. We must all resist. Let this book help you. I read this book and found it to be the most enlightening book since I finished Baldwin's "No Name in the Street." This mind-opening book, subtitled "black women and self recovery" really is a book everyone should read. It was written about 20 years after Baldwin's work mentioned above and is even more relevant today so many years later. It is a manual for resistance against the forces of domination. We must all resist. Let this book help you.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    "Internalizing racist thinking or attempting to cavalierly subvert it, many black people tend to see us as having an edge on “silly” white people who have all these mental health problems and need therapy. Our edge, our one claim to superiority, is supposedly that we do not suffer mental illnesses. Myths like this one make it nearly impossible for some black folks to face the fact that psychological dilemmas may be an important source of addictions." "Internalizing racist thinking or attempting to cavalierly subvert it, many black people tend to see us as having an edge on “silly” white people who have all these mental health problems and need therapy. Our edge, our one claim to superiority, is supposedly that we do not suffer mental illnesses. Myths like this one make it nearly impossible for some black folks to face the fact that psychological dilemmas may be an important source of addictions."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pat Jennings

    bell hooks brings an awareness to black women and feminism in the most readable and succinct ways. Her intelligent language but totally relatable material is a pleasure to read even though the truths she openly explores are painful at times. I am in awe of the way the spiritual, nature, and love needs of black women (well, all women) are explored. bell hooks understands the internal and the external work of black women. She is amazing in the way she can communicate the truth.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Cameron

    A lot of important information. I loved the information in this book and it’s truth. It is not just for black women though I recommend all black women read it. It also gave me a lot of books to add to my reading list. I’m very thankful I read it and I think all women should read it. Or everyone should read. It speaks on depression, over eating, everything that is normally not takes about in our community. A must read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    While I'm definitely not the target audience of this book, I really appreciated it. Her writing style flows wonderfully and she always connects ideas in a new and interesting way for me. I read bell hooks more interested in the historical/social analysis of rascism in her writings, but the way it was paired with the importance of self-care and personal recovery in this book was a new side of things I hadn't thought of before. While I'm definitely not the target audience of this book, I really appreciated it. Her writing style flows wonderfully and she always connects ideas in a new and interesting way for me. I read bell hooks more interested in the historical/social analysis of rascism in her writings, but the way it was paired with the importance of self-care and personal recovery in this book was a new side of things I hadn't thought of before.

  29. 4 out of 5

    LaChelle

    The most affirming self-help book I’ve read as a Black woman. bell hooks work is so important for US. I gained a deeper understanding of how the collective anguish of being a Black woman impacts my mental health as well as a lot of practical methods for leading a life of love, communion, care of self, truth-telling forgiveness and recovery. Will definitely revisiting and wish I could’ve discovered this book sooner!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This is a manual - something I feel compelled to return to. So many passages caused me to agree out loud, it felt like being in conversation with bells hooks as I read it. Truly an important exploration of what it means to be a Black woman moving through the world. I wish I’d come across this book when I was younger, it’s such an important reference work for how to view yourself in a world not set up to value your humanity.

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