The author’s family confirmed her death to USA TODAY, saying she died Wednesday morning.
“We sadly confirm that our sister Gloria Jean Watkins (bell hooks) passed away at her home in Berea KY in the early morning hour today. She chose cremation so a celebration of life service will be at a later time,” her family said in a statement Wednesday.
Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky she went on to pen many literary works under the pseudonym bell hooks, a tribute to her great-grandmother that she chose to write using lowercase letters to focus attention on her words rather than herself. After receiving a Bachelors’ degree from Stanford University, a Master’s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her doctorate a the University of California – Santa Cruz, she went on to teach at many other institutions while harnessing a career in literature and penning over 30 books.
Her first published work under bell hooks was a collection of poems “And There We Wept” which was released in 1978.
In 1981 she published “Aint I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism” which examines the nature of Black feminism through the lens of sexism and slavery. She went on to write more books studying the topic including “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” and “Feminism is for Everybody.”
The literary community shared an outpouring of tributes to hooks on social media.
“Oh my heart. bell hooks,” wrote acclaimed writer Roxane Gay. “May she rest in power. Her loss is incalculable.”
Ibram X. Kendi, the award-winning author of “How To Be An Antiracist,” tweeted that hooks’ passing “hurts, deeply.
“At the same time, as a human being I feel so grateful she gave humanity so many gifts. AIN’T I A WOMAN: BLACK WOMEN AND FEMINISM is one of her many classics. And ALL ABOUT LOVE changed me. Thank you, bell hooks. Rest in our love.”
“She was an intellectual giant, spiritual genius & freest of persons! We shall never forget her!” tweeted writer and activist Cornel West, mourning his “very dear sister bell hooks.”