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Author photo. University of Mississippi Foundation

University of Mississippi Foundation

Randall Kenan

Author of Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

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Randall Kenan has 1 media appearance.

Randall Kenan
Booknotes, Sunday, April 25, 1999
Randall Kenan discusses Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century.

"Walking on Water" is a profoundly moving and provocative account—both timely and enduring—of the thoughts, the feelings, the lives, of African Americans in the post-Civil Rights era of the nineties, by the highly praised author of "Let the Dead Bury Their Dead" and "A Visitation of Spirits." Traversing the country over a period of six years, Randall Kenan talked to nearly two hundred African Americans, whose individual stories he has shaped into a continent-sized tapestry of black American life today. He starts his journey in the famous, long-standing black resort community on Martha's Vineyard, travels up through New England, and heads west, visiting Chicago, Minneapolis (home of the singer Prince and of the Pilgrim Baptist Church, with its seven choirs and vast outreach), Coeur d'Alene (skinhead capital of the world), Seattle, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. He moves on to the South, to Louisiana and St. Simons Island, where so many slave ships landed, and ends up at home in North Carolina, telling his own family's story. Kenan talks to a wide variety of people: to the Harlem Renaissance writer Dorothy West; to the Republican congressman from Alaska, Walter Furnace; to a rising young air force major whose father was lynched in Alabama when the major was a child; to a vocal welfare mom. He interviews a retired railroad conductor, an energetic "child of the dream" majoring in public relations at the University of North Dakota, Atlanta's new Panther-style militants, a bisexual AIDS activist, a twelve-year-old girl who fought the racism at her elementary school with a stunning essay, a Baptist minister in Mormon Utah. He speaks to teachers, retired maids, filmmakers, dancers, entrepreneurs, cyberspace whizzes, lawyers, farmers, painters, and many, many more. The people we meet—each with his or her own unique slant on black life—are fascinating. And as we listen to them, a multifaceted portrait of the black community at the end of the century emerges, with its diverse and little-known local cultures, its widely varying accommodations to integration, its desire to keep the soul-satisfying elements of black life intact while integrating with the larger society, its many ways of coping with the discrimination that remains: its triumphs, its problems, its optimism in spite of all the odds. Walking on Water is a richer, sharper, fuller picture than we have yet had of the astonishing experience of being black in America. —from the publisher's website (timspalding)… (more)

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