Remembrance of Randall Kenan

Randall Garrett Kenan, a Carolina alumnus, master storyteller and professor of creative writing in the College of Arts & Sciences’ department of English and comparative literature, passed away at his home the week of August 24th.

Kenan graduated from Carolina in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in English and began his career on the editorial staff of Alfred A. Knopf Inc. publishers, in New York. He would later go on to teach fiction, nonfiction and food writing at Carolina, which he called “an enchanted place.” He served as a visiting professor at Carolina in 1995 and joined the faculty full time in 2003. He had also taught at numerous universities, including Duke University, Columbia University and the University of Mississippi.

He was a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. His 1992 collection of stories, “Let the Dead Bury Their Dead,” set in the fictional community of Tims Creek, North Carolina, won a Lambda Literary Award in 1993. The collection was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and among The New York Times Notable Books. “Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century” was nominated for the Southern Book Award in 1999.

Kenan is also the author of “The Fire This Time” (2007) and the just-published “If I Had Two Wings: Stories.” A piece from that collection, “God’s Gonna Trouble the Water or, Where is Marisol?” was recently published in O, The Oprah Magazine. He also wrote for the Oxford American and Ploughshares literary journal.

Kenan is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the John Dos Passos Award and was the 1997 Rome Prize winner from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is former chancellor of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

Kenan, in this file photo taken in Wilson Library, had just found out he had won the North Carolina Award for Literature. (photo by Steve Exum)
In this photo taken in Wilson Library, Kenan had just found out he had won the North Carolina Award for Literature. (Photo by Steve Exum)

In 2005, Kenan won a North Carolina Award for Literature, the state’s highest civilian honor.

Excerpts from "Mourning the passing of a master storyteller," The Well.


Jacob R. Lau, Assistant Professor and Director of Sexuality Studies
Department of Women's and Gender Studies
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Attend this Presentation

Day Two (Tuesday, October 13th, 2020) | Session Three (8:00pm - 9:00pm)

Duration: 5 minutes

Sharing and printing options: