By Deanna Tran

“Kentucky has been my ground in writing,” said Bell Hooks, during the opening of the speech she delivered at the first Kentucky Women’s Book Festival Sept. 22 – 23 at Spalding University. Between 225 to 250 students, teachers, writers and observers attended the festival, which was free and open to the public.

The festival was sponsored by Women Who Write, The Women’s Center at the University of Louisville, and Spalding University’s brief residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program.

Hooks, along with other women writers of Kentucky such as novelist and playwright Sallie Bingham and Kentucky poet Laureate Sena Jeter Naslund, were featured. The festival aimed to bring female Kentucky writers and their readers together in order to discuss, share, and celebrate the meaning, inspiration and importance of women’s writing.

Hooks dedicated her speech to attendee Lucy Freibert, who was responsible for teaching the first women’s studies class at the University of Louisville in 1973. “Lucy is a goddess,” Hooks said.

Nationally recognized for her views on sexism and racism in America, Hooks came to the festival to talk about what it meant to her to be a writer from Kentucky. Her works include “Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism” and “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center.”

Hooks, born and raised in Hopkinsville, Ky., currently teaches Residence at Berea College in Berea, Ky.

At the festival, Hooks asked “What makes one a Kentucky writer?” She has deep roots and ties to Kentucky, yet Hooks said that she has found it to be a battle for the association to the state. Hooks explained that throughout her career as an African-American feminist scholar and writer, she has never been recognized as a writer from Kentucky, even though her love for writing and reading was born and developed in Kentucky.

Growing up as an African-American female in an abusive family in Kentucky, Hooks said “Nature was the intimate companionship of my girlhood.” From her connection to nature, Hooks said she developed a comfortable confidence to Kentucky. However, Hooks said that confidence was “shattered” when she moved from the country to the city. It was in the city where Hooks said she had to face “the politics of race, class and gender” for the first time in her life.

“I felt that it was best not to be seen; to be still and confined in blackness and darkness,” Hooks said of her early years in the city. It was then, Hooks proclaimed, that she found sanctuary in reading and writing. Her writing skills lead her to a career of feminist writing and a life away from Kentucky.

Hooks said she could have never imagined returning to live in Kentucky permanently; she said,”If I went back to Kentucky, it was because I was dead.” But over time, she began to return to Kentucky, and it was then that she realized that “Kentucky was a culture of belonging… a landscape of thought, memory, imagination, renewal and connection.”

“It’s been an exciting mission for me,” Hooks said, her closing remarks dealt with her two passions: reading and reading to children. Hooks said being from Kentucky she wants to help and show children of Kentucky that you can be a “visionary intellectual and still be from Kentucky.”

More information is available online by visiting