William Melvin Kelley
William Melvin Kelley
|Born||November 1, 1937|
New York City, New York
|Died||February 1, 2017 (aged 79)|
Manhattan, New York
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Genre||Novel, short story|
|Notable works||A Different Drummer, dem|
|Notable awards||Anisfield-Wolf Book Award|
|Spouse||Karen (Aiki) Kelley|
|Children||Jessica (daughter), Cira (daughter)|
William Melvin Kelley (November 1, 1937 – February 1, 2017) was an African-American novelist and short-story writer. He is perhaps best known for his debut novel, A Different Drummer, published in 1962. He was also a university professor and creative writing instructor. In 2008, he received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Life and work
William Melvin Kelley was born in New York City on November 1, 1937, and grew up in the Bronx. He was educated at the Fieldston School in New York and at Harvard University (class of 1960), where he studied under John Hawkes and Archibald MacLeish. While a student at Harvard, he was awarded the Dana Reed Prize for creative writing.
Kelley lived in Paris and Jamaica, where he and his family converted to Judaism.
Kelley was also a teacher and writing instructor. His academic appointments included a time as writer-in-residence at the State University of New York at Geneseo; he also taught at the New School for Social Research and at Sarah Lawrence College from 1989 until his death in 2017.
In 1988 Kelley starred in Excavating Harlem in 2290, which he also wrote and produced, collaborating with Steve Bull to bring it to the screen. He also contributed to The Beauty That I Saw, a film assembled from Kelley's video diaries of Harlem. Edited by Benjamin Oren Abrams, it was featured at the Harlem International Film Festival in 2015.
Kelley published four novels and a volume of short stories. In a 2012 interview he claimed to have completed two more novels that have thus far remained unpublished. According to Robert E. Fleming:
From the beginning of his career in 1962, William Melvin Kelley has employed his distinctive form of Black comedy to examine the absurdities surrounding American racial attitudes.
- A Different Drummer, Doubleday (1962), reprinted by Anchor Books (1990), ISBN 0-385-41390-4
- Dancers on the Shore, Doubleday (1964), reprinted by Howard University Press (1982), ISBN 0-8825-8114-7
- A Drop of Patience, Doubleday (1965), reprinted by Ecco Press (1996), ISBN 0-8800-1460-1
- dem, Doubleday (1967), reprinted by Coffee House Press (2001), ISBN 1-56689-102-7
- Dunfords Travels Everywheres, Doubleday (1970), ISBN 0-8936-6101-5
- Boyd, Herb (February 10, 2017). "Author William Melvin Kelley passes at 79". Amsterdam News. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
- Grimes, William (8 February 2017). "William Melvin Kelley, Who Explored Race in Experimental Novels, Is Dead at 79" – via NYTimes.com.
- Schulz, Kathryn (January 29, 2018). "'The Lost Giant of American Literature: A major black novelist made a remarkable début. How did he disappear?'". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 28, 2018. As "Remainders" in the print issue, pp. 26–31.
- Blacks at Harvard, by Werner Sollors, Caldwell Titcomb, Randall Kennedy, Thomas A. Underwood, NYU Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8147-7973-5, ISBN 978-0-8147-7973-6
- Schulz, Kathryn. "The Lost Giant of American Literature". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
- Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, Emmanuel S. Nelson, editor. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999, p. 238. See web version (accessed September 16, 2008).
- Kemme, Steve, "William Melvin Kelley", Mosaic
- Excerpted from The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), quoted in aalbc.com, Retrieved September 16, 2008.