The Heart-Wrenching Death Of Author Bell Hooks

On December 15, 2021, the world of literature was shocked by the news that the acclaimed author and public intellectual bell hooks had died at the age of 69. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, her death was announced via a press release from hooks' niece, Ebony Motley,  hooks died following a short illness, and she died surrounded by family and friends at her home in Berea, Kentucky.

It was at her town's Berea College that bell hooks based her intellectual life, and the institution — which also houses hooks' papers — was among the first to pay tribute to the writer. Per a press release via WTVQ, the college said it is "deeply saddened about the death of bell hooks, Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies, prodigious author, public intellectual and one of the country's foremost feminist scholars."

Close friends of hooks also shared their personal tributes. "She was one of my dearest friends, and the world is a lesser place today without her," said Linda Strong-Leek, Provost of Haverford College and former professor at Berea.

An outspoken and generous intellectual

Born Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, bell hooks first captured the world's attention in her early 20s with the release of her seminal debut book, "Ain't I A Woman? Black Women and Feminism," first published in 1981, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Her pen name was that of her maternal great-grandmother, while the academic's choice of styling her name in lowercase was a conscious attempt to minimize her own identity to give the subjects of her work the top billing, per her 2019 New York Times profile. Her many critical subjects ranged from feminism and racism to culture and spirituality, while she also successfully wrote non-academic work in disparate genres, such as poetry and children's writing.

hooks published more than 40 books during her long and illustrious 40-year career. For her many readers, it is heart-wrenching that it couldn't have been even longer.