Acclaimed author, critic, and feminist bell hooks died this morning at her Kentucky home, surrounded by her loved ones. She was 69 years old and had been ill.
Born in Kentucky on September 25, 1952, she attended segregated schools. She moved to California where she attended Sanford University, then earned her Master’s at the University of Wisconsin and her PhD at University of California Santa Cruz. Her pen name was her great-grandmother’s given name, which she styled in lower case so that the substance of her work was foremost.
Renowned for her philosophical work defining the intersections of race and gender, hooks published her first book in 1981: Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, titled after Sojourner Truth’s famous “Aren’t I A Woman” speech. She has since written more than 40 books, including poetry, essays, memoir, and children’s picture books.
In addition to writing, hooks taught at Berea College in Kentucky, a historical institution founded by abolitionists in 1855; the school has always been integrated, admitting students of all genders and races, and charges $0 tuition. Her title at the school was Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies, and in 2010 the school opened The bell hooks Institute at Berea College, which houses her collection of contemporary African American art in addition to some personal items and copies of her books in several languages.
hooks was inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame in 2018, and has influenced countless people. She once said, “To be truly visionary we have to root our imagination in our concrete reality while simultaneously imagining possibilities beyond that reality.” She certainly embodied that.
If you’ve yet to read bell hooks’s work, or are looking to re-familiarize yourself, we’ve got a reading pathway to bell hooks books.