Writing collaboration

a ‘work in progress’

2a. bell hooks

with 2 comments

… a “widely published black feminist” writer (Williams 2006, np), and perhaps the most famous academic publishing under another name. She is a distinguished professor – in – residence in the English Department at Berea College, Kentucky. She writes short, anecdotal, sometimes dialogic essays in academic and popular journals, that aim to appeal “to a popular and a professionalized readership to become responsible members of a common intellectual community” (Chay 1997, 366).

Her birth name is Gloria Watkins, so where does ‘bell hooks’ come from and what does ‘it’ allow her do say and do differently? In her (1989) book Talking back, she explained:

One of the many reasons I chose to write using the pseudonym bell hooks, a family name (mother to Sarah Oldham, grandmother to Rosa Bell Oldham, great-grandmother to me), was to construct a writer-identity that would challenge and subdue all impulses leading me away from speech into silence. I was a young girl buying bubble gum at the corner store when I first really heard the full name bell hooks. I had just ‘talked back’ to a grown person. Even now I can recall the surprised look, the mocking tones that informed me I must be kin to bell hooks – a sharp-tongued woman, a woman who spoke her mind, a woman who was not afraid to talk back. I claimed this legacy of defiance, of will, of courage, affirming my link to female ancestors who were bold and daring in their speech. Unlike my bold and daring mother and grandmother, who were not supportive of talking back, even though they were assertive and powerful in their speech, bell hooks as I discovered, claimed, and invented her was my ally, my support. That initial act of talking back outside the home was empowering… (hooks 1989, 9).

‘bell hooks’ is written in lower case to try to convey how “it is the substance of my books, not who is writing them, that is important” (Williams 1996, np) and, she has said, first writing under this name allowed her to speak “most directly to black women [with a] the voice I felt to be most truly mine – it was then that my voice was daring, courageous” (LeBlanc 1994, nd).

So, for Gloria Watkins, ‘bell hooks’ is a persona (more than just a nom de plume) that enables and empowers her to speak truly, directly and engagingly to academic and popular audiences about important social issues.

Written by Ian Cook et al

September 1, 2008 at 12:07 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] ‘bell hooks’ is written in lower case to try to convey how “it is the substance of my books, not who is writing them, that is important” (Williams 1996, np) and, she has said, first writing under this name allowed her to speak “most directly to black women [with a] the voice I felt to be most truly mine – it was then that my voice was daring, courageous” (LeBlanc 1994, nd). https://writingcollaboration.wordpress.com/1-introduction/1a-bell-hooks/” […]

  2. […] name in lower case. hooks has written that she wrote her name lower case to focus the reader on the content and substance of the work, and less on the person writing. ayo’s daring work can be seen in similar light. The artist […]


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