William Melvin Kelley
|William Melvin Kelley|
November 1, 1937|
New York City, New York
|Died||February 1, 2017
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 a prominent 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. He was educated at the Fieldston School in New York. Later, he attended 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 was also a teacher and writing instructor. Some of the various teaching positions he held during his life, 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, and collaborated with Steve Bull to bring it to the screen. Another film that Kelley was associated with during his life was “The Beauty That I Saw," which was made from Kelley's own video diaries of Harlem. The latter film was edited by Benjamin Oren Abrams, and was featured at the Harlem International Film Festival in 2015.
While he was alive, Kelley published four novels and a single volume of short stories. But during an interview conducted in 2012, Kelley claims to have completed two more novels that have, thus far, remained unpublished.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 2017-02-16.
- Grimes, William (8 February 2017). "William Melvin Kelley, Who Explored Race in Experimental Novels, Is Dead at 79" – via NYTimes.com.
- 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
- 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)
- excerpted from The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York, Oxford University Press, 1997), quoted from aalbc.com (accessed September 16, 2008)
- Brief biography
- William Kelley at aalbc.com
- Bio from Contemporary African American Novelists
- Works by or about William Melvin Kelley in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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