Virtuosic in his use of literary forms, nurtured and unbounded by his identities as a Black man, a gay man, an intellectual, and a Southerner, Randall Kenan was known for his groundbreaking fiction. Less visible were his extraordinary nonfiction essays, published as introductions to anthologies and in small journals, revealing countless facets of Kenan’s life and work.
Flying under the radar, these writings were his most personal and autobiographical: memories of the three women who raised him—a grandmother, a schoolteacher great-aunt, and the great-aunt’s best friend; recollections of his boyhood fear of snakes and his rapturous discoveries in books; sensual evocations of the land, seasons, and crops—the labor of tobacco picking and hog killing—of the eastern North Carolina lowlands where he grew up; and the food (oh the deliriously delectable Southern foods!) that sustained him. Here too is his intellectual coming of age; his passionate appreciations of kindred spirits as far-flung as Eartha Kitt, Gordon Parks, Ingmar Bergman, and James Baldwin. This powerful collection is a testament to a great mind, a great soul, and a great writer from whom readers will always wish to have more to read.