Heavy

Kiese Laymon
In this powerful and provocative memoir, genre-bending essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse. Kiese Laymon is a fearless writer. In his essays, personal stories combine with piercing intellect to reflect both on the state of American society and on his experiences with abuse, which conjure conflicted feelings of shame, joy, confusion and humiliation. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of growing up in a nation wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we've been. In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free. A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood--and continues through twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2020-03-25
This book hurt my heart and opened my eyes at the same time. Easy to read and hard to read. Exceptionally written. I think everyone should read this book. It gave me the look I needed into cultures, upbringings, and circumstances radically different from my own even though they happened within my same country. Definitely recommend.
Reviewed: 2019-03-11

This book received glowing reviews and has won many awards, but I found it really hard to read.  Kiese Laymon's story was really difficult to get through because of all the awful things he went through as a child and young adult including poverty, sexual abuse, physical abuse, racism, hunger, over-eating, an absent father, etc. 

The racism that Mr. Laymon faced his entire life is so discouraging.  I found Mr. Laymon's white colleagues at Vassar the worst, as they questioned his credentials and education. Shouldn't they have been more open-minded?

I also found it so sad & tragic that Mr. Laymon dealt with his insecurity by over-exercising and/or over-eating and then gambling.  No one wants to repeat the patterns of their parents, but Kiese gambled everything away just like his Mother did. 

I know this book won lots of awards and I thought about giving it a Five Star review, but I found the book so depressing and heartbreaking, so I gave it Four Stars.  I didn't enjoy reading this book, but I'm glad I did because the more I read about cultures I know little about, the more I grow. 

I would recommend this book to others, but I can't imagine ever reading it again.  I think I will gift it to Kelly, as I think she'll want to read it.  

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@alissaaah began #heavyanamericanm... on 2020-06-25
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@alissaaah began #heavyanamericanm... on 2020-06-25
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@jk completed #heavy... on 2020-05-30