bell hooks – the beloved poet, author, feminist and teacher – has died, Berea College, the university where she taught, announced on Wednesday. She was 69 years old.
“Berea College is deeply saddened by the death of Bell Hooks, Emeritus Professor-in-Residence of Appalachian Studies, prodigious author, public intellectual, and one of the nation’s foremost feminist scholars,” the college wrote.
Hooks died at home after a “prolonged illness”, according to Berea College.
Known for her writings on race, gender and sexuality, Hooks published more than 30 books during her lifetime, including “Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism” in 1981 and “All About Love” in 1999.
Throughout her life, Hooks’ dedication to accessible feminist theory remained strong. In a 2015 interview with The New York Times, Hooks said his main intention was to “produce a theory that people could use.”
“I have this phrase I use, ‘work with work,'” Hooks said. “So if somebody comes to me and they have one of those hook books that’s abused and beaten up, and every page is underlined, I know they’ve worked with the work. And that’s where what happens to me.”
His work has widely influenced contemporary writers, many of whom shared their grievances on social media following the announcement.
“As a first-generation student, Bell Hooks was the first writer I encountered through academia whose work I was able to enthusiastically discuss with friends and acquaintances *outside* academia” , writes Saeed Jones, author of the award-winning memoir “How We Fight for Our Lives.” “My mom and I read bell hooks together. I will always treasure the way her work built bridges.”
“Oh my heart. Bell hooks. May she rest in power. Her loss is incalculable”, writes Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist”.
“I’m heartbroken. Bell Hooks’ words helped make me the writer I am, taught me there’s no shame in centering love and tenderness, in approach him and kiss him fiercely”, writes Bolu Babalola, author of “Love in Color”. “She is an eternal strength and a blessing may she rest in perfect peace.”
Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Hooks took her alias from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. She chose to lowercase her name so readers would focus on “the substance of the books, not who I am,” she said during a Rollins College appearance in 2013. She also explained the choice in a 2011 interview, noting that this idea of ”moving away from the idea of the person” was popular in the 1960s and 1970s during the height of the feminist movement.
“It was: let’s talk about the ideas behind the work, and people matter less. It was a bit fanciful, but a lot of feminist women were doing it,” Hooks said. “Many of us have taken the names of our female ancestors – Bell Hooks is my maternal great-grandmother – to honor them and to demystify the idea that we were these unique and exceptional women. We meant, in fact, that we were the products of the women who came before us.”
She has won several awards during her career and has taught at several universities, most recently at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.
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