A Visitation of Spiritsby Randall Kenan
“With A Visitation of Spirits, Randall Kenan continues James Baldwin’s legendary tradition of ‘telling it on the mountain.’”—San Francisco Chronicle
When A Visitation of Spirits was published, Randall Kenan (1963-2020) was instantly recognized as a writer of significance, and one who brought into literary fiction the southern Black, gay experience, one of the few writers to do so. His work has won the Lambda Literary Award for gay fiction, a Whiting Award, and the John Dos Passos Prize, and he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship and the Prix de Rome.
His groundbreaking first novel, A Visitation of Spirits, is the powerful story of Horace Cross, a popular and high-achieving sixteen-year-old boy, who wrestles with the guilt of discovering who he is, a young man attracted to other men and yearning to escape the narrow confines of Tims Creek. Raised on stories of prophets, revelations, and dreams, his internal struggles take shape in his mind as demons and angels battling for his soul, culminating in one night of horrible and tragic transformation. Horace seeks help from his cousin, Reverend James “Jimmy” Greene, but he finds himself ill-prepared to help the boy, plagues by demons of his own. And as Horace spirals out of control, Jimmy must ask himself what it says about him and his community that they cannot reconcile the spirits of the past with those of the future.
Weaving the mythos and the hard realities of rural Black life and easily gliding between past and present, A Visitation of Spirits is a classic novel of growing up from a literary giant.
“Randall Kenan is an American master.”—Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
“A genius, our Black Marquez.”—Terry McMillan
“A Visitation of Spirits marks the debut of a very gifted writer. Randall Kenan speaks eloquently and with a great deal of courage about personal and communal strife with the Black community.”—Gloria Naylor
“A very daring first novel . . . innovative . . . Randall Kenan has courage and talent to spare.”—Chicago Tribune
“Remarkable for its very ambiguities, this stylistically daring novel steers wide of the literature of oppression and uplift, and shares even less with tales of coming-out, in short, an original.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Oh, the magic and music Randall Kenan brings to the page.”—Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
“A gifted, confident writer.”—Raleigh News and Observer
“Kenan’s grasp of his lightly fictionalized home’s history, geography, and culture was as keen as Faulkner’s.”—Slate
“One of America’s finest writers.”—Southern Review of Books