bell hooks, trailblazing feminist scholar and activist, has died at age 69 The prolific author, poet, cultural critic, feminist and professor, who wrote more than three dozen wide-ranging books, died Wednesday at her home in Berea, Ky.

Trailblazing feminist author, critic and activist bell hooks has died at 69

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The trailblazing author, poet and cultural critic bell hooks died today at the age of 69 after an extended illness. She grew up going to segregated schools in Kentucky and went on to become one of the foremost feminist and public intellectuals of our time. NPR culture correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas has this appreciation.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Ky., in 1952. She took on her pen name as a tribute to her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. In print, she spelled her name with no capital letters as a way of de-emphasizing her individual identity. Bell hooks was the author of more than three dozen wide-ranging books. She frequently addressed the deep intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality and geographic place. She wrote about her native Appalachia and growing up there as a Black girl in a book of critical essays called "Belonging: A Culture Of Place", as well as in a poetry collection, "Appalachian Elegy: Poetry And Place." In a conversation with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED in 2000, she mused about the expansive, life-changing power of love, the act of loving far beyond romantic sentiments.


BELL HOOKS: I'm talking about a love that is transformative, that challenges us in both our private and our civic lives. You know, I'm so moved often when I think of the civil rights movement because I see it as a great movement for social justice that was rooted in love and that politicized the notion of love, that said real love will change you.

TSIOULCAS: And she talked about how that kind of love could transform society.


HOOKS: Let's return to a kind of utopian focus on love, not unlike the sort of hippie focus on love. Because I always say to people, you know, the '60s' focus on love had its stupid, sentimental dimensions, but then it had these life transforming dimensions. When I think of the love of justice that led three young people - two Jews and one African American Christian - to go to the South and fight for justice and give their lives - Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner - I think that's a quality of love that's awesome.

TSIOULCAS: Bell hooks taught at Stanford University, Yale University, Oberlin College in Ohio and the City College of New York before returning to her native Kentucky in 2004 to teach at Berea College. It was the first integrated co-educational college in the South, and this tuition-free school now houses the bell hooks Institute, which the school calls a feminist hub for scholarship, activism and radical inclusion. But hooks' work went far beyond the academy. She wrote everything from children's books to an incisive appraisal of Beyonce's visual album "Lemonade." In turn, her impact was felt in many spheres. At a public talk held at the new school in New York in 2014, she spoke about getting her flowers during her lifetime.


HOOKS: I often talk about the fact that so many Black women writers died before they realized that there was anybody who appreciated their work, anybody who would read their work over and over again, anybody who felt that their life was in any way transformed or touched by their work. So I come to you feeling the depths of deep blessing. And I just feel that that's awesome. And there isn't a time of my life that I don't feel tremendous gratitude.

TSIOULCAS: Bell hooks' readers were grateful for her. Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.


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