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Acclaimed Poet, Author bell hooks Passes December 15, 2021


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From: The family of Gloria Jean Watkins (bell hooks) and William Morrow Publishers

Date: December 15, 2021




The family of Gloria Jean Watkins is deeply saddened at the passing of our beloved sister on December 15, 2021. The family honored her request to transition at home with family and friends by her side.


William Morrow Publishers mourns the loss of bell hooks, New York Times best-selling author, cherished teacher, public intellectual, cultural critic and visionary.


Gloria was a native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Born September 25, 1952, to Veodis and Rosa Bell Watkins, the fourth of 7 siblings (Sarah, Theresa, Kenneth, Valeria, Gwenda, Angela).


Gloria learned to read and write at an early age and even proclaimed she would be famous one day. Growing up, the girls shared an upstairs bedroom and she would always keep the light on well into the night. Every night we would try to sleep but the sounds of her writing or page turning caused us to yell down to Mom to make her turn the light off.


There were many summer days that Gloria led the walk to the public library to checkout books. While Valeria and Gwenda would find one or two Nancy Drew or other fun books, Gloria always had at least ten books of a more serious nature (Shakespeare, Little Women, and other classics). With her intense love for information, her ability to speed read was perfected. We will always remember Gloria as having a great thirst for knowledge which she incorporated into her life’s work.


In 1978, she published her first book of poems, “And There We Wept”, under the pen name bell hooks, honoring our great-grandmother. She was often told as a child that her quick-thinking and outspokenness was like Granny Bell. Her written works include some 40 books that are now published in 15 different languages making her an international favorite loved by many.


The family is honored that Gloria received numerous awards, honors, and international fame for her works as poet, author, feminist, professor, cultural critic, and social activist. We are proud to just call her sister, friend, confidant, and influencer.


Gloria’s love for reading began as a child. Contributions and memorials can be made to the Christian County Literacy Council via Paypal (https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=CGQPNACBYNRZA) which promotes reading for children or the Museums of Historic Hopkinsville Christian County (http://www.museumsofhopkinsville.org/contact/) where a biographical exhibit is on display.


A celebration of life ceremony for our beloved sister, Gloria, will be announced later.



Gwenda Motley: gcmotley@att.net (sister) Valeria Watkins: watkinsv8@gmail.com (sister), Sharyn Rosenblum: Sharyn.Rosenblum@harpercollins.com (publicist)



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Guest Sarah Smith Ducksworth

I am absolutely floored by the passing of my literary sister. I often tell the story of how I met her way back in 1989 at Yale University. My daughter was in her class that fall semester, and she was so impressed with her professor, Gloria Watkins, that she invited me to drive up to her college from New Jersey to spend the day with her and her professor and have lunch — just the three of us. Of course, I had never heard of Gloria Watkins, so I had no idea that the person she wanted me to meet was bell hooks, whom I had heard of. After I arrived on campus, my daughter took me to Gloria’s apartment. After introductions, we walked to a local sandwich shop. After lunch, we returned to Gloria’s apartment and spent hours talking about the marginalization of black professors in academia, the slight of black women, in general, and how that could be corrected. Gloria never told me she was the bell hooks who was already a famous scholar. Months later, after my daughter — who had skipped freshman comp based on advance placement — told me the true identity of her professor. In retrospect, I thought I had missed a great opportunity.  But today, I think perhaps not. I met the genuine bell hooks: kind, modest, considerate, insightful, and eloquent on a subject that mattered to her. I am so sorry for the world’s loss of this wonderful writer and great human being.

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