is best known, perhaps, for her novel The Wind Done Gone
, a parody of Gone With the Wind that tackles the earlier book's treatment of race. But Randall, a Vanderbilt professor
and Harvard graduate
, isn't just a novelist: she's a country music songwriter
, the first black woman to have a No. 1 song
on the country music charts.
Randall's work, whether it's her novels or her music, often explores the African-American experience in unexpected ways
,* and is filled with copious literary allusions. Her second novel, Pushkin and the Queen of Spades
, about an African-American professor of Russian literature whose son, Pushkin, disappoints her by becoming, of all things, a football player, echoes The Godfather
with its opening line, "LOOK WHAT THEY DONE TO MY BOY!" and her song "Many Mansions" is probably the only country music song to open with a line from a poem by Emily Dickinson
. Another song is called "A Hundred Years of Solitude
" after the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Randall is a rarity in the world of country music, which has been called the de facto "soundtrack of white flight
," both for who she is and for the subjects of her songs. She's written a song about a man who got lynched between his wedding and his reception
("The Ballad of Sally Anne"
), and songs ("I'll Cry for Yours, Will You Cry for Mine?" and "Went for a Ride," respectively) about slave and Confederate dead in the Civil War and about black cowboys in the Old West (referenced in this bio
). Beyond just writing songs, Randall teaches about the artform: she has a course called "Country Music Lyrics in American Culture
" and co-wrote a book of playlists
to guide listeners through the genre.
*I'd just like to point out that this is my favorite link in the whole post, a meaty interview at identity theory.