Dysfunction in a family is the inability for the family to work as a unit. Since hooks does not tell her story in a traditional way, we see the family dysfunction defined by their reactions to her.
As a child, bell hooks’s family was dysfunctional because no one communicated or made an attempt to understand the others. She got no sympathy from her parents or her siblings. She considered herself a stranger from her father.
Her family considered her a rebel. When hooks was trying to define herself, her family responded with ridicule and abuse. Young hooks took refuge in her books.
I hear again and again that I am crazy, that I will end up in a mental institution. This is my punishment for wanting to finish reading before doing my work. (p. 101)
Her family does not appreciate her. They see her as a rebel, not as someone special. As a result, growing up is a physically and mentally painful experience.