Biography of Bell Hooks
By Radiyah Shakur
“Spirituality has always been the foundation of my experience as a writer. Most writers know that our visions often emerge from places that are mysterious-far removed from who we are and what we think we know. Faced with this reality again and again as we work with words, we can only acknowledge the presence of an unseen force”. (When The Spirit Moves You, March 1988)
Self-described as a “Black woman intellectual, revolutionary activist”, Bell Hooks has added new dimensions to traditional approaches to topics ranging from feminist theory to racial and socio-economic interactions. Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, hooks grew up with admiration for literature, particularly poetry. It was her family’s love for poetry that pushed her towards writing some of her own works. This later led to her pursuing a BA degree in English at Stanford University in California and a Masters in the same discipline at the University of Wisconsin. From there, she began her career as an English professor and began her journey as a published writer taking on the alias bell hooks in remembrance of her great grandmother, using lower case as a symbol of modesty.
Hooks first began writing poetry and later moved on to full length analytical works critiquing the feminist movements in the US. Her works looked at the way in which the popular feminist movements of 19th and 20th centuries only benefited white American women and left women of other races stagnant and in most cases even more disenfranchised. The author’s later works include essays and articles on love, the representation of blacks in media and spirituality.
Hooks believes that the American society should teach its students to develop a “critical consciousness” by participating in their education instead of being passive recipients. She continues to write, lecture and provoke. Her writings have inspired many women to take more dominant roles in society, as well as their love relationships. Moreover, her critiques have given multiplicity to the common discourse.