'The World Is a Lesser Place Today Because She Is Gone'

Author bell hooks has died at the age of 69
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 15, 2021 1:59 PM CST

bell hooks, the groundbreaking author, educator, and activist whose explorations of how race, gender, economics, and politics were intertwined made her among the most influential thinkers of her time, has died. She was 69. In a statement issued through William Morrow Publishers, hooks' family announced that she died Wednesday in Berea, Kentucky, home to the bell hooks center at Berea College. CNN cites the college as saying she died after an "extended illness."

"She was a giant, no nonsense person who lived by her own rules, and spoke her own truth in a time when Black people, and women especially, did not feel empowered to do that," Dr. Linda Strong-Leek, a close friend and former provost of Berea College, wrote in an email to the AP. "It was a privilege to know her, and the world is a lesser place today because she is gone. There will never be another bell hooks."

hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins and gave herself the pen name bell hooks in honor of her maternal great-grandmother. Starting in the 1970s, hooks published dozens of books that helped shape popular and academic discourse. Her notable works included Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center and All About Love: New Visions. Among her most famous expressions was her definition of feminism, which she called "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression." CNN flags a 2015 interview hooks gave to the New York Times that is full of great lines. A standout passage:

  • "I always kind of chuckle at people labeling me a public intellectual. I chuckle because people used to say, 'How have you written so much?' and I’d say, 'By not having a life.' There is nothing public about the energy, the discipline and solitude it takes to produce so much writing. I think of public intellectuals as very different, because I think that they’re airing their work for that public engagement. Really, in all the years of my writing that was not my intention. It was to produce theory that people could use. I have this phrase that I use, 'working with the work.' So if somebody comes up to me, and they have one of those bell hooks books that’s abused and battered, and every page is underlined, I know they’ve been working with the work. And that’s where it is for me."
(Read more obituary stories.)

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