Randall Kenan The Fire This Time

ISBN 13: 9781933633244

The Fire This Time

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9781933633244: The Fire This Time

“Randall Kenan continues Baldwin’s legendary tradition of ‘telling it on the mountain.’”
San Francisco Chronicle

James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time was one of the essential books of the sixties, and one of the most galvanizing statements of the American civil rights movement.
    Now, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with a new generation of Americans confronting what Baldwin called our “racial nightmare,” acclaimed writer Randall Kenan asks: How far have we come?
    Combining elements of memoir and commentary, Kenan’s critical eye ranges from his childhood to the present to observe that, while there have been dramatic advances, some old issues have combined with new ones to bedevil us: “Nigger” has become a hip usage; the African-Americans that have finally attained prominent political positions are, more often than not, arch-conservatives; the Christian and Muslim religions so central to the civil rights movement have become more intolerant, while the stirring spiritual music that inspired it has been replaced by an aggressive form of hip-hop.
    Starting with W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King, Jr., Kenan expands the discussion to include many of today’s most powerful personalities, such as Oprah Winfrey, O. J. Simpson, Clarence Thomas, Rodney King, Sean “Puffy” Combs, George Foreman, and Barack Obama.
Published to mark the forty-fifth anniversary of James Baldwin’s epochal work, this homage by novelist, essayist, and Baldwin biographer Kenan is itself a piercing consideration of the times, and an impassioned call to transcend them.

Randall Kenan is the author of the biography James Baldwin: American Writer, and the collection of oral histories Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the 21st Century, as well as the novel A Visitation of Spirits, and the short story collection Let the Dead Bury Their Dead. His work has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the John Dos Passos Award, the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and numerous other prizes. He teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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About the Author:

Randall Kenan is the author of several books including James Baldwin: American Writer, and Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the 21st Century. He work has been awarded a Guggenheim, Whiting Writers Award, Sherwood Anderson Award, John Dos Passos Award, and Rome Prize. He teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

From Publishers Weekly:

Kenan's latest, alternating memoir and commentary, is an intelligent homage to James Baldwin's celebrated 1963 The Fire Next Time, and an important book in its own right. Early on, an especially vibrant memory of his surrogate father's attempt-against all advice and odds-to remove the enormous pile of brush in the back of their lot becomes a powerful metaphor for the book's larger concern, overcoming racial division: "the gradualness of it, the day-by-day, one-whack, one-bush, one-shovel-at-a-time nature of the work." Proclaiming that "positive news abounds," Kenan's examination of figures in the African-American community include the jubilant observation that emerging celebrities, as well as accomplished individuals like astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Sesame Street's Elmo (Kevin Clash) and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Robin Givham are all famous in their own right, and "little is made of their obvious, undeniable blackness." Still, new challenges and setbacks lurk: hip hop and "the ethos that has risen up around it," AIDS and a lack of voice and leadership in black churches, among others. Kenan poses many difficult questions, such as why the high school dropout rate among African-Americans is so high, why African-Americans pay higher mortgage rates and why CDC estimates say one in three black gay men are HIV positive, making this book a perfect catalyst for lively discussion, and a fine state-of-the-issues update on Baldwin's 45-year-old touchstone.
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Kenan, Randall
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ISBN 10: 1933633247 ISBN 13: 9781933633244
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