A personal, social, and intellectual self-portrait of the beloved and enormously influential late Randall Kenan, a master of both fiction and nonfiction.
“Rich in identity,” as he described himself, Randall Kenan wrote widely and profoundly about what it meant to be Black, gay, and Southern. He confessed himself “elusive”—yet revealed himself in astonishing prose—memories of his three mothers (especially Mama, his great-aunt); recollections of his boyhood fear of snakes and his rapture in books; his sensual evocations of tobacco picking and hogkilling, butterbeans and scuppernongs, of the eastern North Carolina lowlands where he grew up. Here too is his intellectual coming-of-age: his passion for science fiction; his informed and ecstatic appreciations of James Baldwin, Ingmar Bergman, Gordon Parks, and Eartha Kitt; his grappling with the politics and meaning of race (a fiction) and home (an inescapable, visceral reality).
This powerful collection is a testament to a polymathic mind, a wise soul, and a sublimely gifted writer from whom readers will always wish to have more to read.
About the Author
Randall Kenan (1963–2020) last work of fiction, If I Had Two Wings, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Aspen Prize, and the National Book Award for Fiction (longlist). He was a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
Almost everything in the inimitable sound of Kenan's baritone voice is contained in this collection of beautiful thinking and feeling. The warm, mercurial intelligence of Randall Kenan's smile, especially, is made word here, thank goodness.
— Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins
In these wonderfully far-ranging essays Randall Kenan writes with wit, warmth and humility about Baldwin and Bergman and Blackness and the great Eartha Kitt. Best of all, he writes about himself: his fascinating childhood, his relationship with the South, his thoughts on Star Wars and Race and writing and pop culture and barbecue. He understood we live in perilous times; he understood the necessity of joy.
— Margot Livesey, author of The Boy in the Field