Randall Kenan was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1963 and grew up in Chinquapin, North Carolina, and graduated from the University of North Carolina. He has taught at Sarah Lawrence, Columbia University, Duke University, Vassar College, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Memphis, and is now Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill.
His collection of stories, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, was published in 1992 and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was among the New York Times Notable Books of 1992. Kenan is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the John Dos Passos Award, and was the 1997 Rome Prize winner from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was awarded the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2005 and was elected to the Fellowship of Southern Writers in 2007.