Bell hooks, a well-known novelist and activist, died on Wednesday. She was 69 years old at the time.
Gloria Jean Watkins, as Gloria Jean Hooks, was born on September 25, 1952, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. In 1978, she published her first book, “And There We Wept,” a collection of poems. She then went on to write and publish her first book “Isn’t it true that I’m a woman? Feminism and Black Women “in the year 1981
Hooks died after an unexplained illness, according to Berea College in Kentucky, where she worked as a professor.
“bell came into the life of many Bereans in 2004 to help the College get closer to its Great Commitments, particularly the Fifth Great Commitment focused on the kinship of all people and interracial education; the Sixth Great Commitment dedicated to gender equality; and the Eighth Great Commitment centered on service to Appalachia,” the school wrote in a statement.
“In 2017, bell dedicated her papers to Berea College, ensuring that future generations of Bereans will know her work and the impact she had on the intersections of race, gender, place, class and sexuality.”
Hooks’ pen name was Bell Hooks, after her great-grandmother Bell Blair Hooks.
She wrote over 40 books, many of which dealt with feminism and race issues. According to The Poetry Foundation, she won various prizes, including the Lila-Wallace—Digest Reader’s Fund Writer’s Award and was recognized one of our nation’s greatest public thinkers by The Atlantic Monthly.
Hooks began writing poetry at the age of ten, according to the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame, where she was honored in 2018. She acquired a powerful voice against racism and sexism as a young woman, which eventually bled into her hundreds of books and essays on the intersections of race, gender, class, and oppression and power systems.
Hooks began writing “Ain’t I a Woman,” a pioneering book on Black feminism, while a student at Stanford University, where she graduated in 1973. She got a master’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a doctorate in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Toni Morrison was the subject of her PhD dissertation.
Hooks taught African American studies at Yale in 1988 after teaching at UC-Santa Cruz, and then women’s studies at Oberlin College. She taught at City College of New York before settling at Berea College in Kentucky.
Her publications introduced many people to feminist thinking over the course of her career, particularly variants of feminism that were more inclusive of the lives and concerns of Black women and women of color. But, notably in a sequence of volumes published in the early 2000s, some of her most important work was about love.
“I want my work to be about healing,” she said in 2018, according to The Lexington Herald-Leader. “I am a fortunate writer because every day of my life practically I get a letter, a phone call from someone who tells me how my work has transformed their life.”