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Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

Kenan, Randall

33 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0679408274 / ISBN 13: 9780679408277
Published by Knopf 1999-02-02, US, 1999
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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About this Item

670 pages. SIGNED BY AUTHOR on title page. Light shelf-wear to dust jacket, else a clean, tight copy. Record # 466181. Bookseller Inventory # 466181

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Walking on Water: Black American Lives at ...

Publisher: Knopf 1999-02-02, US

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


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.


This delicious and diverse sampler of African American life culled from over 200 interviews by author Randall Kenan shows that the American idea of "blackness" is as vast as the United States itself and cannot be pinned down to simplistic sociological clichés. "More than a book of analysis," Kenan writes, "this is my book of soul searching. I am asking who we are." Crisscrossing North America, he visits some familiar settings--Oakland, New Orleans, and New York--and some unusual places (including Bangor, Maine, and Maidstone, Saskatchewan) to discover how everyday black folks deal with issues of race, identity, and nationality. From a black minister in Mormon Utah to a female judge in skinhead country to the state of blacks in the would-be utopia of Seattle, Kenan paints a revealing portrait of a people whose presence and perseverance may forge a better America in the 21st century. --Eugene Holley Jr.

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