Erica Kennedy, author of the novels Bling and Feminista and a feminist icon to many, was found dead at her home on June 13. Her cause of death has not been released, but she suffered from depression, and some are speculating that she committed suicide. Now writers are mourning the loss of a woman one calls an “all-around beautiful Black feminista rock star.”
Demetria L. Lucas, writing on Clutch, calls Kennedy one of the writers who “turned my ‘maybe I can do this’ into ‘yes, I actually can.’” She explains that Bling, a New York Times bestseller optioned for film, made her “the writer who gave other writers hope.” And she quotes an unnamed editor: “She was the black girl that made it. I didn’t know her, but I was soooo proud of her.” Fans echoed that feeling of closeness:
Feeling melancholy today reading the blog posts about the death of writer Erica Kennedy. In my imagination, we were friends. RIP…— Arianna Davis
And notables from the media offered their regrets:
So sad about Erica Kennedy. It’s still hitting me. So young. RIP.— TourÃ©
Erica Kennedy has died, and the world is a lesser place. http://t.co/KfJi2wYF— Roger Ebert
In a 2009 interview with Rebecca Walker, Kennedy said, “I never felt comfortable calling myself a feminist because that word has so many negative connotations,” calling up images of a “hairy, man-hating woman.” She defined a “feminista,” by contrast, as a “modern woman who is making her own choices, whether it’s wearing a short skirt and red lipstick to the office (perhaps one that she runs) or staying home to raise babies.” “Being a feminista,” she explained, “is about tapping into our unique female attributes and living authentically instead of defining ourselves by male standards of success.”
Some have taken Kennedy’s death as a reminder that strong women can seek help too. Vanessa K. Bush writes that admitting depression “doesn’t mean you have to give up your strong-Black-woman card.” Instead, “we as Black women have to stop holding it in and start letting it out.”
Kennedy didn’t always feel that the experiences of independent black women were appreciated by the media world. She told Rebecca Walker that Bling, “this raunchy hip-hop satire,” got lots of media attention — “Then I write a chick lit [book] with a strong female character and every editor was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know about this!’” That difference, she said, “says a lot about the world we live in.” As Ebert wrote, Kennedy’s commentary on that world will be greatly missed.
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