Once again, I enter the new year in posthumous thanks to one of my muses. At the beginning of 2019, I bid farewell to author and playwright Ntozake Shange in “An Open Posthumous Letter to Ntozake Shange, Author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide” and in 2020, I honored the legacy of Toni Morrison in “Thanks for the Memory: A Posthumous Letter to the Late Toni Morrison.” Now, as we begin 2021, I am compelled to write this posthumous thank-you note to literary and feminist theorist/activist bell hooks, ne Gloria Jean Watkins, who gained her angel wings on December 15, 2021. Following is my posthumous note of thanks to hooks, my muse. Dear Professor hooks:
I remember the first time I met you. I introduced you at our Women’s Studies symposium in March of 2003. You complemented me on my outfit – a suit with which I refuse to part, even some 19 years later, because I shook your hand while wearing it, REALLY; it’s my lucky suit, thank you! Your soft, nasaled “Hi; nice suit,” accompanied by and equally firm but soft handshake: Pardon me, Professor hooks, but you had me at “Hi.”
You see, although this was the first time we’d share physical space, I “met” you months prior in my Introduction to Women’s Studies course when I “Theory as Liberatory Experience.” Admittedly, my first impression was of your intentional use of lower case first initials in your first and last name, a choice even more impressive because you chose this pen name in homage to your grand mother, Bell Blair Hooks, and to emphasize “the substance of books, not who I am” (Risen). From your humble spirit would flow more than 30 books, from her debut Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981) to your later works, like The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (2004), which collectively examine the silencing of black female voices as a result of sexual objectification, skin color, body weight, and heterosexism. You challenge the power of the white male perspectives, championing, instead, authentic representations of black women; and you do so in a tone that remains conversational, while firmly rooted in scholarship. I often write as if I am in conversation with you, particularly as your book, All About Love, informs much of the framework for my scholarship on African American women’s narratives.
So it was on that crisp December morning, when I awoke to the news of your passing. “Damn!” I thought. Another Queen silenced. Fortunately, I have but to look at my collection of your works, my consequential scholarship and that of others both in the academy and in the community. For that, I thank you!
Until we meet again,
Dr. Ondra Krouse Dismukes
Dismukes, Ondra Krouse. “An Open Posthumous Letter to Ntozake Shange, Author of for
colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf.” The Linguistique Mystique, January 26, 2019.
---. “Thanks for the Memory: A Posthumous Letter to the Late Toni Morrison.” The Linguistique Mystique, March 6, 2020.
Risen, Clay. “bell hooks, Pathbreaking Black Feminist, Dies at 69.” The New York Times. December 15, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/15/books/bell-hooks-dead.html. Accessed 9 January, 2022.