Literary giant, bell hooks, has gained her wings.
As shared in a tweet from her family, hooks, who blazed her own trail as a groundbreaking Black feminist, author, critic and public intellectual, has passed away at the age of 69.
She was born as Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Later, she would change her pen name to bell hooks to honor her maternal great-grandmother – and to put emphasis on her messages rather than her identity – hooks chose to use lower case letters.
As a child, she became an avid reader and had her first poems published in a Sunday School magazine. Finding solace from social oppression through literature and writing, hooks, whose childhood dream was to become an architect, went on to graduate from Stanford University in 1973 with a bachelors in English Literature.
It was during college, at the age of 19, that she began building what is currently known as a pioneering intersectional feminism text, “Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism” (of course inspired by Sojourner Truth’s iconic 1851 speech of the same name aforementioned).
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1976 with a master’s degree in English Literature, another first came for hooks in 1978 when she published her first poems, “And There We Wept” under her pen name. She later earned a doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1983.
Dedicating her life to writing about the intersectionality of race, capitalism and gender, hooks’ legacy includes publishing more than 40 books (now available in 15 different languages) and the well-deserved title as one of the most influential voices of modern feminist scholarship.
"I want my work to be about healing,” Kentucky.com reports hooks saying. “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."
By the outpour of condolences, it's clear that hooks' impact will remain with us for generations to come.
bell hooks was an extraordinary writer, thinker, and scholar who gave us new language with which to make sense of the world around us. Her work was imbued with a deep commitment to truth-telling, but also with a profound sense of care and love for community. She was a treasure.— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) December 15, 2021
It is because of bell hooks that i learned theory can be a place of deep transformation and healing. Your memory lives on forever. You taught us well.— Breya (@TheBlackLayers) December 15, 2021
Rip Gloria Jean Watkins. pic.twitter.com/H6z3aUTRqy
The passing of bell hooks hurts, deeply. At the same time, as a human being I feel so grateful she gave humanity so many gifts. AIN’T I A WOMAN: BLACK WOMEN AND FEMINISM is one of her many classics. And ALL ABOUT LOVE changed me. Thank you, bell hooks. Rest in our love. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/lXnAlaZpng— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) December 15, 2021
Thank you, bell hooks, for all that you gave us and for returning us again and again to the inextricable ties between justice, freedom, and love. May we all live so powerfully. May your memory be a blessing. https://t.co/IAYmXFvNvo— Alondra Nelson (@alondra) December 15, 2021
bell hooks really made me believe that to love and centre love is a radical praxis and we will never see freedom without it. she sharpened my critical lens and without her i would not be the writer i am today, what a loss! my heart feels so heavy— ? (@artfulhussey) December 15, 2021
bell hooks invented the kind of Black feminist cultural commentary that is so popular right now. We're all copying her.— Kimberly Nicole Foster (@KimberlyNFoster) December 15, 2021
bell hooks, 🕯2021 has taken too much from us— Tao Leigh Goffe, PhD | 道 (@taoleighgoffe) December 15, 2021
her essay “eating the other” truly informs me as a scholar everyday
“Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.” pic.twitter.com/Z5hxSq2KXB
it is not hyperbole to say bell hooks saved me and so many of the women i've been blessed to move through this life alongside. what an incalculable loss, my goodness— Hannah Giorgis | ሐና ጊዮርጊስ (@hannahgiorgis) December 15, 2021
Oh my heart. bell hooks. May she rest in power. Her loss is incalculable.— roxane gay (@rgay) December 15, 2021
Rest in power, bell hooks.
Photo Courtesy of Monica Almeida/The New York Times