By Claire Gordon •
Published: 15 Dec 2021 • 20:42
Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name bell hooks, has died aged 69. Her niece Ebony Motley tweeted: “The family of @bellhooks is sad to announce the passing of our sister, aunt, great aunt and great great aunt.”
She also attached a statement, which said that “the family of Gloria Jean Watkins is deeply saddened at the passing of our beloved sister on December 15, 2021. The family honoured her request to transition at home with family and friends by her side.”
The author, professor and activist was born in Kentucky in 1952 and went on to publish more than 30 books in her lifetime. She was adored by activists for her thorough coverage of topics such as race, feminism, capitalism and intersectionality.
She adopted her maternal great-grandmother’s name as a pen name, since she so admired her, but used lowercase letters to distinguish herself from her family member. hooks’ first major work Ain’t I a Woman? was published in 1981, and became widely recognised as an important feminist text. It was named one of the twenty most influential women’s books in the last 20 years by Publishers Weekly in 1992.
“I want my work to be about healing,” she said in 2018 when she was inducted into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame. “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.”
Margaret Atwood told the Guardian: “bell hooks embodied amazing courage and deeply felt intelligence. In finding her own words and power, she inspired countless others to do the same. Her dedication to the cause of ending ‘sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression’ was exemplary.”
The author of The Handmaid’s Tale added “Her impact extended far beyond the United States: many women from all over the world owe her a great debt.”
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