On December 15, the Black feminist scholar, writer, and teacher bell hooks died at her home in Kentucky. She was 69.
The author of more than 30 books on subjects from teaching to love to popular culture, hooks is best remembered for developing a feminist vision that insisted on the intersections of race, class, and gender. Her loss has been mourned by thinkers such as Kimberlé Crenshaw, Roxane Gay, Ibram X. Kendi, Cornel West, Min Jin Lee, and Sara Ahmed, whose lives and writing were shaped by her work.
I too am indebted to hooks. Though we met each other only on the page, she taught me how to teach. When I hear her name today, my mind conjures a shade of yellow — not a muted mustard or a sallow goldenrod, but the hue of a freshly cracked egg yolk — the cover of her 1994 essay collection, Teaching to Transgress. I first read her words on New York City’s Q69 bus, commuting from Midtown Manhattan to the suburban campus of Queens College. It was 2013, and I was a second-year Ph.D. student teaching my first class in literature and composition. After brushing my fingertips across the book’s matte cover, I gently opened it, revealing that the collection was dedicated to her students. Paging through the essays, I read that education should enhance “our capacity to be free” and help students “live more fully in the world.” My skin prickled. My pulse quickened.