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Randall Kenan passed away suddenly on August 28, 2020. He was 57 years old. A Visitation of Spirits is his first novel, and his short story collection Let the Dead Bury the Dead was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and named a New York Times Notable Book.
His most recent collection, If I Had Wings, was longlisted for the National Book Award in Fiction.
He was a generous and engaged writing professor (College, Duke University, Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Mississippi, Oxford, before joining the faculty at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 2003) and literary citizen of his generation and his passing was greeted as a huge loss.
Mr. Kenan was a Black gay fiction pioneer at the time when there were very few being published by major houses. “He embodied all of them, but he’d be loath to make a hierarchy of them,” said the novelist Tayari Jones about him in his New York Times obituary. “He didn’t say, ‘Don’t label me.’ He wore them all as ornaments.”
In Mr. Kenan’s last published piece, which appeared on Literary Hub, he wrote about the increasing outcry against Confederate statues in the South and their removal.
Mr. Kenan won the 1992 Lambda Literary Award for gay fiction. His other honors include a Guggenheim fellowship; a Whiting Award for emerging writers, in 1994; and, in 2002, the John Dos Passos Prize, given by Longwood University in Virginia.
Tarell Alvin McCraney who wrote Moonlight loves the novel and is on our list of possible introduction contributors to introduce his work to a new generation of readers.