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Cover of Heavy: An American Memoir
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Heavy: An American Memoir

By: Kiese Laymon

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade

Imprint: Scribner

Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9781501125669

Other Formats:

Electronic | Hardcover | Audio

On Sale: | Pages: 256

  • About the Book
  • Reviews
*Named a Best Book of 2018 by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed (Nonfiction), The Undefeated, Library Journal (Biography/Memoirs), The Washington Post (Nonfiction), Southern Living (Southern), Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times Critics* In this powerful, provocative, and universally lauded memoir--winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal and finalist for the Kirkus Prize--genre-bending essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon "provocatively meditates on his trauma growing up as a black man, and in turn crafts an essential polemic against American moral rot" (Entertainment Weekly). 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 time in New York as a college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. Heavy is a "gorgeous, gutting...generous" (The New York Times) memoir that combines personal stories with piercing intellect to reflect both on the strife of American society and on Laymon's experiences with abuse. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, he asks 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 book for people who appreciated Roxane Gay's memoir Hunger" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family through years of haunting implosions and long reverberations. "You won't be able to put this memoir] down...It is packed with reminders of how black dreams get skewed and deferred, yet are also pregnant with the possibility that a kind of redemption may lie in intimate grappling with black realities" (The Atlantic).
Laymon's sentences carry a bone-deep crackle of authenticity.... Alongside the heartbreak of these rhythmic, sensual sentences is a forceful, declarative honesty.... Laymon's memoir pulls back the surface of America's stories about race, performing almost an inversion of “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates' eloquent direct address to his black son.... This is a generous conversation about the weight of racism, and the painful pressures placed on familial love. We're lucky to eavesdrop.
—San Francisco Chronicle
By directly addressing his mother and by portraying her as a nuanced and complicated character, Laymon illuminates the fierce love and deception that define his relationship to the woman who made him. This mother love is troubled and troubling. And part of the wonder of Laymon's book is his commitment to getting as close to the truth as possible, even when it means asking painful questions about what we owe the people who brought us into this world and, somehow, managed to keep us alive in it.... Laymon's writing, as rich and elegant as mahogany, offers us comfort even as we grapple with his book's unflinching honesty.... If this book succeeds as a thoughtful and hard-wrought examination of how a black man came into his own in a country determined to prevent that from happening, it's because of the painstaking manner in which Laymon walks the reader through the various perils and costs of striving.... [A]s Laymon's excellent memoir suggests, a refusal to ask and answer difficult questions about ourselves and the people we love can be lethal.
—New York Times
The book is an unflinching exploration of poverty, toxic masculinity, sexual violence, anorexia and bulimia and an overweight boy's codependent relationship with his disciplinarian mother.... Laymon is a gifted wordsmith born and educated in the land of Welty and Faulkner, and his use of language, character and sense of place put “Heavy” neatly into the storied Southern Gothic canon.... [F]or a book that has the author's disturbing childhood as a metaphor for African-Americans' pursuit of unattained happiness and perhaps unattainable racial freedom, “Heavy” is surprisingly light on its feet.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Heavy” is a gorgeous, gutting book that's fueled by candor yet freighted with ambivalence. It's full of devotion and betrayal, euphoria and anguish, tender embraces and rough abuse.... This generous, searching book explores all the forces that can stop even the most buoyant hopes from ever leaving the ground.
—New York Times
HEAVY traces the typical trajectory of a memoir, but reverberates off the page with Laymon's sharp, unique telling.... His writing is clear and compelling, rich in how it ensnares meaning, getting to the heart of his concerns.... HEAVY is a powerful, intricate work. I am so grateful that Kiese Laymon created it and chose to share it with us. I cannot recommend it enough.
—Bookreporter.com
Quite simply, “Heavy” is one of the most important and intense books of the year because of the unyielding, profoundly original and utterly heartbreaking way it addresses and undermines expectations for what exactly it's like to possess and make use of a male black body in America.
—Los Angeles Times
“Heavy” is comforting in its familiarity, yet exacting in its originality. It's a tapestry of heart and heartache about a struggling, gifted single mother and the son who loves, fears, and protects her. It's also about fists that split flesh; taboo-flouting sexual curiosities; social pressures that breed self-hatred; black vigilance; and racial profiling.... “Heavy” provokes fear, wanting, love, and humor. It's Mary J. Blige on the car radio and a cool, grainy glass of Tang, telling lies with your friends, having sex and mistaking it for love.
—Boston Globe
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