Critically acclaimed author and scholar Bell Hooks dies aged 69

Renowned American author, activist and teacher Bell Hooks died today at the age of 69 at her home in Kentucky, United States.

According to a statement, Hooks suffered from illness and died with family and friends by her side.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952, Hooks grew up in a working class African American family in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. She attended a racially segregated school, before moving on to an integrated high school – experiences she attributed to shaping her vision of educational freedom.

In 1973, Hooks received a BA in English Literature from Stanford University, while writing his first major book Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism – although this was not published until 1981.

She went on to earn an MA in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and then earned a PhD from the University of California focusing on the work of author Toni Morrison in 1983.

Early in her college education, she adopted the pen name bell hooks – always spelled with lowercase letters to indicate the importance of her job “not who I am” – after her great-grandmother.

An award-winning writer with international reach

Her first published work was a collection of poems titled And There Wept in 1978, when she was in the early stages of her college career as an English professor and lecturer in ethnic studies at the University of Southern California.

After the release of Ain’t I a Woman? in 1981, Hooks’ work began to gain wide recognition, consolidating her place as a seminal figure in feminist theory. In particular, Hooks has been recognized for its intersectional focus, considering how class, race, and gender come together to maintain and deepen oppression in society.

Throughout his considerable career, Hooks has published 40 books, translated into 15 different languages.

In 2014, actress Laverne Cox credited Hooks’ 1994 book Teaching to Trangress with changing her life. Cox, who is black and transgender, said the text helped her understand herself and the space she was in while studying at college.

Speaking directly to the brackets, in a conversation at New School in New York City, Cox said, “You were writing about non-essential ideas about what a woman is. You were moving away from those ideas of essentialized femininity that held back feminism.

“It made me realize that we can’t talk about ending homophobia without talking about ending patriarchy. We can’t talk about ending transphobia without talking about ending patriarchy.

“When I read a script now, a lot of your work has influenced the way I read scripts and the way I read pictures,” Cox added.

The family of brackets requested that contributions or briefs be made to the Christian County Literacy Council Where Hopkinsville Christian County Museums. No further information on the illness Hooks suffered from has been released.

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