Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism was begun by bell hooks (lowercase intentional by the author's convention) when she was just 19 years old. At the time, she was not only attending Stanford full time, but also working as a phone operator. Published in 1981 in response to the experience of black women having their voices stifled well behind white men, as well as behind white women and black men, hooks' book made it clear that her voice was not that of some lone wolf crying out in the wilderness, but the sound of one person screaming that she has an army behind her.
Although published by an unknown teenager, by the early 1990s Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism would be singled out by Publishers Weekly as one of the 20 most influential texts about women published during the previous two decades. Interestingly—perhaps expectedly—initial reaction even from the academic community would not have led one to expect such a singular sensation after only a decade in print. Many scholars rejected the volume on account of lacking proper form; many reviewers rejected the book on account of stridency.
Time has a way of revealing as much as about the insight of critics as it does about the talent of new authors and the consensus is irrefutable: the author of Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism has gone on to become a capital figure in the world of feminist and African-American literature, sociology, and philosophy. The success of hooks' s work belies the modesty of her insistence upon lowercase letters in her name.
In the decades since the release of Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, hooks has gone on to write extensively and passionately about the intersection of race, gender, and class. Her writing has been widely acclaimed and her books, lectures, and articles have been translated into multiple languages. She has served on the faculty of numerous universities, including Yale, Oberlin College, and the University of Southern California. She is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Book Award and the National Humanities Medal. Her work continues to inspire and empower black women, as well as people of all genders, races, and classes. Her commitment to her readers is clear, and her impact on the world of literature and sociology is evident.