Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Obituaries

Pioneering queer Black feminist bell hooks has died, age 69

Acclaimed author bell hooks, whose intersectional writing asked more of feminism than white upward mobility, has died.

Her notable works include: Ain’t I a Woman? (1981) Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984) All About Love: New Visions (2000), and We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity (2004). Long before we truly started to talk about “toxic masculinity,” hooks was suggesting that men had a role to play in women’s liberation, and that feminism itself needed to be liberated from class and race lines: Feminism, as the title of her 2000 book says, is for everybody. And long before we widely used the term “white rage,” hooks wrote the 1995 book Killing Rage about ending racism in America.

There are in fact 10 powerful books by bell hooks on intersectional feminist theory that Oprah recommends we read, and in total hooks authored 30 books in her time, and countless scholarly articles.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins hooks created her moniker from her maternal grandmother’s name. A poet, a university professor, an academic, an author, and an activist, hooks carried the torch from James Baldwin and Audre Lorde forward into contemporary feminist and queer theory’s most challenging decades. She asked why Black voices in America were always relegated to the margins. She asked why gender was so problematic, and she identified who was to benefit from these schisms: Capitalism.

Born in Kentucky, hooks went on to study at Stanford University and to gain her PhD from the University of California. As an academic she promoted accessible theory that everyone could use and understand. She became widely influential with younger academics of cover, seeking acceptance from the quite literal ivory tower.

“As a first generation college student, bell hooks was the first writer I encountered via academia whose work I was able to enthusiastically discuss with friends and fam *outside* academia,” wrote Saeed Jones, author of the award-winning memoir “How We Fight for Our Lives.” “My mom and I read bell hooks together. I’ll always cherish the way her work bridged shores.”

“Oh my heart. bell hooks. May she rest in power. Her loss is incalculable,” wrote Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist.”

hooks passed away in her home after an “extended illness,” according to Berea College and her niece, in her home state of Kentucky, where she taught.

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