Bello, Maria. Whatever…Love Is Love: Questioning The Labels We Give Ourselves. Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow Publishers, 2015. 219 p. Hardcover. $25.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235183-8.
In 2013, actor/activist Bello wrote the essay “Coming Out As a Modern Family” for the New York Times, in which she revealed she is currently in a relationship with a woman, and that they co-parent Bello’s son as a couple. The widespread response she received inspired this book, which includes the 2013 piece in its entirety. Bello uses it as a jumping-off point for a serious discussion of why and how we all “label” ourselves. Why do we persist in doing so? Does it make sense?
Anyone expecting a chronological Bello autobiography should look elsewhere, though she does share many events and reminiscences from her perspective as both a performer and political activist, along with comments on her earlier romances with men, and her family experiences as both a daughter and mother.
Neither is this an expose of Bello’s seemingly sudden embrace of a newly-realized sexual orientation: she actually eschews any classification in this area that could pigeonhole or limit her. While she is deeply committed to her female partner at the moment, Bello’s emotional history and life orientation imply that things could fluctuate for her yet again someday.
Her chapters each begin with “Am I [A]….?”—- as in “Catholic,” “Good Mom,” “Bad Girl,” “Resilient,” “LGBT or W,” (as in “whatever”), to name a few of the “labels” she tackles.
Bello’s prose is fluid and graceful. I particularly related to her “Writer” chapter, and welcomed her summary: “Here’s what I have decided. You are what you love doing.” While her conclusions may not always be carved-in-granite-worthy, they are elegantly expressed, and spring from a life passionately grasped as a caring citizen of the world.
She concludes: “Labels are useless and meaningless, unless they are the labels you want for yourself and make you feel part of a community to which you are proud to belong. Labels should never make you feel judged or afraid.”
This book is recommended for general readers, and for those who enjoy celebrity memoirs but with a twist. Thanks to Maria Bello, anyone who gravitates towards philosophical musings underscored by real world experiences should find much to enjoy here.
Dallas (TX) Public Library