My first introduction to Bell Hooks was almost twenty years ago when I read her book Feminism for Everybody (Hooks, 2000). I was fascinated by her keen intelligence and sincerity on how the patriarchal culture detains men from knowing themselves and being in touch with their feelings. This impressionable book and Hook’s verbiage helped me find the language not only to guide my husband to express his emotion. It ignited a fire in me to raise my two sons with empathy and the knowledge to retain the fundamental truth of who they are in a world where social structures and practices of male dominance are taught to oppress and monopolize. It took me years to find my feminine identity with patriarchy swirling in my personal and professional life. Authors like Bell Hooks provide a pathway for amateur scribblers like myself to feel like I matter and my ideas are worthy of being written.
Gloria Jean Watkins, who uses the pen name Bell Hooks as an ode to her grandmother Bell Blair Hooks, demonstrates how to be a clear writer who is easy to understand. The way she writes is compelling, and as she pens on (p.13), “there are writers who write because we need to make sense of the world we live in; writing is a way to clarify, to interpret, to reinvent.” Yes, I could not agree more. I respect how Bell Hooks does not avoid difficult conversations. Writing has changed her and allows this dynamic dame to discover something new about herself. Hooks has taught me to focus on finding my identity through writing and using my words to break out of the shadow of myself. I like when she writes, “my granddaddy would say there is light in the darkness, you just have to find it” (p.3). Like Hooks, I, too, would write in my diary growing up. As she states, this record of confession brought me face to face with the shadow self, the one we spend a lifetime avoiding” (p.7).
I read the chapter “writing from the darkness” and highlighted many of her sayings. The first was “It was though I lived in a constant state of siege” … a process of unmasking, stripping the soul, making me feel naked and vulnerable. Even though the experience was cleansing and redemptive” (p.7). She shares how writing was a “therapeutic process of retrospective self-examination and an engagement of critical self-reflection” (p.6). In short, this American author, professor, feminist, and social activist is about restoring people and transforming systems with her words. I am inspired to continue my journey in this Ph.D. program using the framework from my research and all the wonderful writers and critical thinkers I continue to read each semester.