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Black Folk Could Fly: Book summary and reviews of Black Folk Could Fly by Randall Kenan

Black Folk Could Fly

Selected Writings by Randall Kenan

by Randall Kenan

Black Folk Could Fly by Randall Kenan X
Black Folk Could Fly by Randall Kenan
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  • Published Aug 2022
    288 pages
    Genre: Essays

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Book Summary

A personal, social, and intellectual self-portrait of the beloved and enormously influential late Randall Kenan, a master of both fiction and nonfiction.

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"This sublime posthumous collection of essays from novelist Kenan, who died in 2020, offers a moving take on the things that inspired his work...The pieces add up to a rich and rewarding testament to Kenan's curiosity and candor. Fans and new readers alike will appreciate this opportunity to take in Kenan's remarkable talent." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Stirring, deeply thought-through essays and letters on topics ranging from sexuality and racism to foodways and the sense of place...A superb introduction to a writer deserving much greater recognition." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Randall Kenan's erudition was matched only by his imagination, his love for his homeplace only by his vast appreciation of elsewhere, his profound engagement with Black culture only by his daring and thoughtful explorations of its broader meanings. Few writers are as secure in their various identities as he was and as generous in celebrating the worlds of others. This collection is a tribute to one of the great writers in the African American tradition and assures his place in the canon. It also reminds us how much we need to hear his voice today." - Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of The Black Church

"Almost everything in the inimitable sound of Randall Kenan's baritone voice is contained in this collection of beautiful thinking and feeling. The warm, mercurial intelligence of Kenan's smile, especially, is made word in this collection of beautiful thinking and feeling, thank goodness." - Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins

"Each essay in this collection is an education, an illumination, a bridge from the past to the present, to the future, as long as Randall Kenan's writing is read. The breadth of his knowledge of life, food, literature, American history, his own history, touches down here again and again in moments of mixed grace, candor, and wit. The result is a book you sit with instead of rush through, lingering like you might with a friend when you just don't want to say goodbye." - Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

This information about Black Folk Could Fly was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Randall Kenan

Randall Kenan (1963–2020) was the former chancellor of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. He lived in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

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