A Visitation of Spirits

by Randall Kenan

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 264

A Visitation of Spirits centers around a 16-year-old boy, Horace Cross, who is a gay black teenager living in the south. The story is interestingly written in the style of a screenplay and through Horace's inner dialogue. We come to learn that Horace struggles to balance his personal identity with his family's baptist beliefs. He dreams of becoming a bird to escape the conflict and undergoes a ritual. When this goes awry, he enters a state of chaos and wanders the town naked with his grandfather's rifle. Concurrently, his older cousin, Jimmy, is similarly struggling to make a place for his identity. He is a highly involved community leader who is both a reverend and principle of the local high school. It is through Jimmy that we learn about the small town's xenophobia and ignorance. While Horace is struggling with his sexuality and religion, Jimmy, in actuality, lacks a sense of self. Jimmy is only able to provide guidance using the Bible. He is made aware of his lack of self by his uncle Ezekiel. Ezekiel gets into a fight with Ruth, and Jimmy feels compelled to intervene. However, Ezekiel becomes frustrated that Jimmy is unable to provide advice from the heart and simply quotes the Bible. Ezekiel advises Jimmy to find meaning in the Bible and not only quote it. The two men, Jimmy and Horace, are faced with two opposite struggles. However, they share a similar search for self and place. Randall Kenan, the author, is able to weave together the voices and memories to present the family's past, present, and future.

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