bell hooks will live forever
long live the mothers we choose.
love is the only force that allows us to hold one another close beyond the grave. That is why knowing how to love each other is also a way of knowing how to die. - bell hooks
bell hooks passed away today at the age of 69, at home, surrounded by her friends and family. I am verklempt. Her work and presence have been so vital. She taught me love is recognition. She has taught so many of us about love, and she will continue to do so while she rests in love. I am so grateful to her legacy, her genius, her comedy, her wit, her futurity. I will share with you some of the ways she’s shaped my thinking:
Her experimentation on designing a house of dreams came before me. I named my forthcoming book The House of Beauty in homage to poets who write about beauty and space all the time - Gaston Bachelard, Mark Doty, but also, so obviously, bell hooks and Audre Lorde. If my book is the house in which beauty lives, I write in her footsteps, her interrogations. Here’s bell on her dream house:
bell hooks as pop critic, who took Black womanhood as seriously as anything in the academy:
Her work was so accessible, so digestible, that is spawned so many good ways to learn it, too. Like Saved by the bell hooks Tumblr!
For me most formatively, bell hooks as beauty writer:
This is an excerpt from her incredible work, Art on My Mind: Visual Politics. She published it in 1994, a year after I was born. She wrote my dream beauty writing before I was even a cell in my mother’s body. Know that!
bell hooks on love - and grief, from her endlessly excerptable All About Love:
“To be loving is to be open to grief, to be touched by sorrow, even sorrow that is unending.”
bell’s writing always reminds me that love is a risk worth taking on yourself and for yourself. That love breaks you open and asks you to reshape yourself into what you need for now, for the future, for your past - all at once. That love is devotion is transformation, but only if you’re ready to take it on. That it is also work. And it is, quite seriously, the most important work in the world. Over the past few years I’ve gotten a lot softer as the world gets harder. And she taught me that! Remaining open to love is crucial to our survival. There is no point in enduring if it isn’t for something worthy to fight for - each other.
I’m going to spend the next few days revisiting her work and buying it for the people in my life that don’t have it yet. And seeking beauty. Buying flowers. Crying in the bathtub. Writing in a way that shares everything I’ve learned I learned from her first, her always. bell, forever.