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A Visitation of Spirits

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Language  English
Media type  Print (Hardback)
ISBN  978-0-8021-1118-0
Originally published  July 1989
Genre  Novel
Country  United States of America
3.8/5 Goodreads

Publication date  July 1989
Pages  272 p.
OCLC  18681979
Author  Randall Kenan
Publisher  Grove Press
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Nominations  Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Debut Fiction
Similar  Randall Kenan books, Novels

A Visitation of Spirits is a 1989 novel by Randall Kenan.


Plot introduction

Horace Cross, a gay black teenager from North Carolina, wants to turn himself into a bird after he experiences discrimination from his community. Jimmy Greene, Horace's cousin, is a minister with no true convictions who struggles to know God.

Plot summary

Horace Cross is a gay black teenager from Tims Creek, North Carolina. He is fascinated by science and comic books, and his family is convinced that he is going to make them proud. Horace grows up in a fundamentalist Baptist family who condemn homosexuality, forcing Horace to stay in the closet and constantly wrestle with his own identity. The story starts with an internal dialogue about Horace's desire and quest to turn himself into a bird. When his ritual for this transformation fails, he is apparently possessed by a demon. Armed with his grandfather's gun and almost naked, he walks around his hometown, experiencing flashbacks and revelations which tell the story of his life, his struggles with homosexuality, and the failures of his closest friends and family to save him from his fate.

Mixed in the telling of Horace's journey is "present" and past events which explain more about how Horace's elder cousin, Jimmy Greene, becomes a minister and the principal of the local high school. Jimmy can't give any real advice of his own, and he has to turn to the Bible when confronted with a problem: he references the Old Testament when Horace comes out to him and, in fact, advises Horace to, paradoxically, "Search your heart. Take it to the Lord. But don't dwell on it too much. You'll be fine. Believe me." In the present to the thread of this book, Jimmy drives his great-aunt Ruth and his uncle Ezekiel to see one of their relatives, Asa Cross, in hospital. In a diner, Ruth has an argument with Ezekiel; Jimmy attempts to quell it but he remains unsuccessful, in spite of being a church minister. In the end, Ezekiel tries to teach Jimmy that he can't turn to the Bible to solve all of his problems.

Story-telling elements

Randall Kenan uses a few unconventional story-telling elements in this story. For example, 3 pivotal scenes from Horace's and Jimmy's past are written in a screenplay style of writing. Moreover, the book starts and ends with detailed scenes of community from the past, namely the "hog killing" scene individually titled "Advent (or The Beginning of the End)" at the beginning and the individually titled "Requiem For Tabacco" at the end.


A Visitation of Spirits Wikipedia

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