Fact Check: Posts Claim bell hooks Said 'Knowing How to Be Solitary Is Central to the Art of Loving.' We Found the Quote

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Claim:

Author bell hooks once said, "Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape."

Rating:

Rating: Correct Attribution
Rating: Correct Attribution

A purported quote about love from the acclaimed author, theorist and professor bell hooks has been going viral since 2023. Most recently, it spread on X in June 2024, claiming she once said, "Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape."

hooks — who insisted on using lower-case letters in her name — indeed wrote this in her 2000 book, "All About Love: New Visions." The book is a collection of essays that critiques society's view of love as primarily romantic and addresses love in numerous shapes and forms. We thus rate this claim as "Correct Attribution."

The quote can be found in Chapter 8, titled "Community: Loving Communion." The section begins with an analysis of communities and how they are essential to sustain life, more so than nuclear families, romantic partnerships or individualists. hooks wrote (emphasis ours):

We all long for loving community. It enhances life's joy. But many of us seek community solely to escape the fear of being alone. Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.

She then referenced theologian Henri Nouwen who "emphasized the value of solitude." She described his writings that discouraged readers from seeing solitude "as being about the need for privacy" but "the place where we can truly look at ourselves and shed the false self."

She later quoted Nouwen's writings: "Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community."

hooks died in December 2021, reportedly due to renal failure. She is widely credited for highlighting in the 1980s how the feminist movement had ignored the voices of Black and working-class women. Her interests were wide and varied and she wrote around 30 books that encompassed children's literature, literary criticism, memoir, self-help and poetry.

Sources:

hooks, bell. All About Love: New Visions. HarperCollins, 2018. Accessed 25 June 2024.

Risen, Clay. "Bell Hooks, Pathbreaking Black Feminist, Dies at 69." The New York Times, 15 Dec. 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/15/books/bell-hooks-dead.html. Accessed 25 June 2024.