Acclaimed feminist author and activist bell hooks has died at the age of 69, her family has confirmed.
She died on Wednesday at her home in Kentucky “surrounded by her family and friends”, according to a statement. Hooks was considered a trailblazer within the intersectional feminism movement, and published some 40 books during her life.
Her real name was Gloria Jean Watkins but she adopted her great-grandmother’s name Bell Blair Hooks for her writing. However, hooks deliberately styled her own name with lower case letters to focus attention on her message rather than herself.
She said she wanted readers to focus on the “substance of books, not who I am”. Hooks wrote regularly about feminism, racism, culture, capitalism, politics, gender roles, love, and spirituality. In particular, she wrote about how a person’s race, gender and social class were interconnected.
“We [cannot] see gains for feminism distinct and separate from other struggles,” she once said. Her niece, Ebony Motley, posted a statement on twitter confirming the news of her death. “The family is honored that Gloria received numerous awards, honors, and international fame for her works as [a] poet, author, feminist, professor, cultural critic and social activist,” the statement said.
Hooks was born on 25 September 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and was the fourth of seven siblings. She attended segregated schools in Christian County before going on to Stanford University in California. She earned a master’s in English at the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate in literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Her first book, Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, was published in 1981. Hooks went on to release more than 40 books, ranging from essays and poetry to children’s books. “My work is so eclectic; it spans such a broad spectrum,” she once said in an interview.
From 2004, hooks worked as a teacher at Berea College and in 2010 the school opened the bell hooks Institute at Berea College. She was inducted into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2018.
“I want my work to be about healing,” hooks said. “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.”Following the news of her death, hooks’ friend Linda Strong-Leek said: “She was one of my dearest friends and the world is a lesser place today without her.”
Best-selling American writer Roxane Gay tweeted “Oh my heart. bell hooks. May she rest in power. Her loss is incalculable.”