bell hooks, the activist, poet, feminist and author, died December 15 at her home in Berea, Kentucky of an undisclosed illness. She was 69. She was surrounded by friends and family at the time of her death.
Born on September 25, 1952, in Hopkinsville, Ky. hooks is the fourth of seven siblings. She loved writing and eventually earned a masters degree in English at the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate degree in literature from the University of Santa Cruz. It was then that she adopted the pen name bell hooks–which was her great-grandmother’s name.
hooks released her first book in 1981, titled Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism. In her career she wrote over 30 books that included works of poetry, memoir and cultural criticism; five children’s books and chapters in various feminist texts. Her books spanned various topic to include feminism, racism, socio-politics, gender, and sexuality.
After her schooling, she returned to Kentucky to teach at the local college in the town she grew up in, and in one of her books, she discusses this transition to moving back home. In 2010, Berea College opened an institute named after the author which houses collections of her books, and poetry published in English and other languages.
Hooks is also known for coining the term The “Oppositional gaze”, which comes from her 1992 essay collection book Black Looks: Race and Representation. The Oppositional gaze is in relation to political rebellion and resistance against the repression of a Black person’s right to look, observe, and criticize. This concept is a tool that Black people use to disrupt the power dynamic that white cinema uses to perpetuate the Othering of Blackness in media.
In 2018, hooks was inducted into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame, and at the induction ceremony she told columnist Tom Eblen what she wanted the future of the bell hooks institute to look like. “Lots of people aren’t comfortable coming on college campuses for a talk. They feel like that’s not their place,” she said. The thing about the institute is that its goal is to be this sort of democratic location. No degrees required.”
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