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bell hooks (1952–2021), acclaimed feminist author

by Linnea Crowther

Author bell hooks was acclaimed for her writing on race and gender.

Influential and award-winning writing

Born Gloria Jean Watkins, hooks chose her pen name as a tribute to her great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. She didn’t capitalize it, she said, to emphasize the “substance of books, not who I am.” With the publication of her first book, 1981’s “Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism,” hooks became an influential feminist thinker. Her focus on Black womanhood made her one of the first to bring intersectionality into feminism. She wrote more than 30 books, including “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,” “Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood,” and children’s books such as “Be boy buzz.” A sought-after public speaker, hooks was among the leading intellectuals of her time. She was honored with awards including an American Book Award and a Writer’s Award from the Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Fund. In recent years, hooks taught at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, where she founded the bell hooks Institute.

Notable quote

“The process begins with the individual woman’s acceptance that American women, without exception, are socialized to be racist, classist and sexist, in varying degrees, and that labeling ourselves feminists does not change the fact that we must consciously work to rid ourselves of the legacy of negative socialization.” —from “Ain’t I a Woman”

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Tributes to bell hooks

Full obituary: Lexington Herald-Leader

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