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Randall Kenan’s passing has left a huge hole in the world and in our hearts. What I have learned in the past few days is just how much he meant to so many people–writers from Boston to New York to California, harried graduate students, friends inside the department and outside it, readers and teachers of his work from around the world. I first met Randall at the annual Faulkner conference in Mississippi; he was a young promising writer, I a new assistant professor. I was immediately struck by his absolute brilliance, rollicking sense of humor, and gentle spirit. When I came to UNC in 2005, I was thrilled to be on the faculty with him. Meeting him on the elevator, always mopping his brow, always with a genuine smile on his face, could make my day. Later, when I turned to writing fiction, he wholeheartedly supported me. He came to every single one of my readings in Chapel Hill, usually sitting to my right on the second row, always mopping his brow and looking up at me with kind, attentive eyes. I loved hearing him read his brilliant essays and fiction. He came to the subject of race with razor-sharp insights, in the tradition of W.E.B DuBois and James Baldwin. The last event we did together was in March of last year for an anthology of LGBTQ writers from North Carolina; after our readings I leaned over and told him I loved him. Afterward, I felt embarrassed to have blurted out something like that. It wasn’t like me. Now I’m glad I  did.