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Randall Kenan Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

A Visitation of Spirits (1989)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

Let The Dead Bury Their Dead And Other Stories (1992)Description / Buy at Amazon
Racing Home (2001)Description / Buy at Amazon
If I Had Two Wings (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon
Black Folk Could Fly (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

James Baldwin (1993)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Time Not Here: The Mississippi Delta (1997)Description / Buy at Amazon
Walking On Water: Black American Lives At The Turn Of The Twenty First Century (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Fire This Time (2008)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Carolina Table: North Carolina Writers on Food (With: Celia Rivenbark) (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Go the Way Your Blood Beats(1996)Description / Buy at Amazon
Shade(1996)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Eloquent Short Story: An Anthology of Narrative Styles(2004)Description / Buy at Amazon
Twenty-Seven Views of Hillsborough(2010)Description / Buy at Amazon

Randall Kenan
Randall Kenan, born in Brooklyn, New York on March 12, 1963, was an American author of nonfiction and fiction. Kenan, who was raised in a rural community in North Carolina, focused his fiction work on what it means to be gay and black in the southern United States.

When he was just six weeks old, his family moved to Duplin County, North Carolina, where he lived with his grandparents in a small town called Wallace. His grandparents ran a dry-cleaning business, and were too busy most of the time to care for Kenan themselves so they hired somebody to take care of him.

During the weekends, his great-uncle Redden and great-aunt Mary would take them to their family farm in Chinquapin, roughly fifteen miles east of Wallace. When he was three, Redden died all of a sudden, and Kenan’s grandpa suggested to Mary that she keep Kenan since she was all alone. After that, he stayed with his great-aunt Mary for what remained of his adolescent years.

His great-aunt Mary, whom he later called ‘mama’, became a mentor to him, and taught him how to read when he was four years old. She was a kindergarten teacher so she heavily supported education and started his education at a young age. He grew up loving to read everything that ranged from comic books to novels to the Bible, and eventually developed a love for storytelling himself.

Randall attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill starting in the fall of 1981 and graduating in the year 1985 with degrees in Creative Writing and English. During his freshman year of college he had been pursuing a physics degree, however found he was confused on what he should pursue next since he was not liking the classes he was taking. Then he decided to enroll in a writing class led by Max Steele, an editor for the Paris Review.

Randall also studied with Doris Betts, an author, who attempted to get Kenan a job in publishing in New York City. Her efforts were not successful at first, and it wasn’t until a few months after he graduated that he got an offer to work for Random House in New York City.

He was hired at Random House initially because they wanted to increase the amount of minorities that worked at the company after they were in trouble with the Equal Opportunity Commission. After he did some odd jobs at Random House, he got a job at Alfred A. Knopf as a receptionist, where he had the chance to study his craft. He worked there for just two months before getting promoted to assistant to the executive vice president, where he stayed for five years.

While he was in the assistant position, until the year 1989, he had the chance to edit dozens of books, which helped him hone his own craft of storytelling. The experience of working at Knopf helped him in finalizing his own debut novel.

His first novel was praised by a few critics, however it did not get much attention. Randall’s situation was changed more with the release of his second book, a collection of short stories set in the fictional community of Tims Creek, and focused on (among some other things) what it meant to be black, poor, and gay in the southern United States.

After he published his first novel, he started teaching at three different universities part time. He taught at Vassar College, Sarah Lawrence College, and Columbia University once a week each, giving him enough time to work at his own writing. He was a full time professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Randall also served as a visiting writer or a writer in residence at a number of other universities, which includes the University of Memphis, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Mississippi, and Duke University.

He has also written two nonfiction books about James Baldwin, a gay African-American essayist and novelist and a writer that Kenan has frequently said was one of his idols.

“Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century” was nominated for the Southern Book Award. “If I Had Two Wings” was longlisted for the National Book Award. “Let the Dead Bury Their Dead” was hailed as a revival of classic southern literature and got nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction, was named a New York Times Notable Book, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

He won many writer awards including a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the John Dos Passos Prize, the Sherwood Anderson Award, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He died at the age of 57 on August 28, 2020 at his home in Hillsborough, North Carolina. When he died, he left behind an unfinished book called “There’s a Man Going ‘Round Taking Names”.

That same month, his final collection of short stories was released, called “If I Had Two Wings”.

Randall’s debut novel, called “A Visitation of Spirits”, was released in the year 1989. His work is from the literary fiction genre.

“A Visitation of Spirits” is the first stand alone novel and was released in the year 1989. Randall weaves a horrific and vivid story through the generations of one black Southern family.

Horace Cross, sixteen years old, is plagued by some issues that hover in his impressionable spirit and take shape inside of his mind as loathsome demons, and it all culminate in a night of tragic and terrible transformation. In the face of his fate, Reverend James “Jimmy” Green, his cousin, questions the values of a community which nourishes a boy, places their hopes for salvation on him, just to deny him his destiny.

The novel is told in a montage of memories and voices, it shows how richly populated a family’s present is with the spirits from the past and future.

This debut marks the beginning of one talented writer, who speaks eloquently and with a great amount of bravery.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Randall Kenan

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