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Heavy: An American Memoir
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Heavy: An American Memoir

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4.63  ·  Rating details ·  508 Ratings  ·  127 Reviews
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
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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by Scribner
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Roxane
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How do you carry the weight of being a black man in America? In electrifying, deliberate prose, Kiese Laymon tries to answer that question from the first page of Heavy: An American Memoir to the last. He writes about what it means to live in a heavy body, in all senses of that word. He writes of family, love, place, trauma, race, desire, grief, rage, addiction, and human weakness, and he does so relentlessly, without apology. To call the way Laymon lays himself bare an act of courageous grace is ...more
Michael
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
My review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, also can be found on my my blog.

Following the author's life from his childhood in Jackson, Mississippi, to his teaching position at Vassar College, Kiese Laymon's memoir considers what it means to grow up Black, male, and heavy in America. Laymon centers Heavy on his close bond with his single mother, and from that viewpoint he writes succinctly about body image, Blackness, masculinity, trauma, language, education, addiction, and so much more.
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Thomas
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A brilliant and harrowing memoir about growing up black in America. In a roughly chronological fashion, Kiese Laymon details his coming of age in Mississippi, his college years, and his job as a professor at Vassar College. As a child, he dealt with physical/sexual abuse, and throughout his life he dealt with persistent racism that damaged his body and his relationships. With a consistent overarching focus on structural racism, Laymon hones in on two salient aspects of his life in Heavy: his com ...more
Jessica Woodbury
At the very beginning of HEAVY, Laymon writes, "I did not want to write to you. I wanted to write a lie." The "you" is Laymon's mother, and the book is, above all else, about the two of them, written with such openly bared love and fear that it feels like intruding on them to read it. Even the people you know best don't reveal themselves to you this way, and that is, perhaps, some of what Laymon is trying to correct for at least one reader.

The heaviness of the title is made manifest throughout
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Tucker
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The last time I read a memoir as powerful and unforgettable as “Heavy” by Kiese Laymon was Roxane Gay’s “Hunger.” So it seems especially appropriate that she would be the one to write the cover blurb for Laymon’s book.
“Heavy is astonishing. Difficult. Intense. Layered. Wow. Just wow.”
Laymon’s sentences are each finely crafted gems. The deep dive he makes into his history, examining his relationships with his Mother and Grandmother, issues of obesity, anorexia, abuse, trauma, secrets, lies, and
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Andre
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such an aptly titled memoir because it is indeed heavy, not only speaking about his struggles with weight, but also heavy in the literary and impact sense. It is both heady and the words land with real impact on the reader. Kiese Laymon has given us a brutally honest look into his life and asks us, the readers to bear the weight of his experiences, and that is a challenging request but one well worth the payoff. And that recompense comes in the form of a piercingly written memoir that soars to h ...more
Aleatha
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been waiting on this book all year and it didn't disappoint.
Monica **can't read fast enough**
Heavy is overwhelmingly honest, heart wrenching and written in a stunningly beautiful way. Kiese Laymon not only looks into the mirror and sees himself wholly, he reflects all of the ugly injustice and brutality of our culture. Both as American and as African Americans. The long held and brutal belief that as parents of black children you must beat your children and treat them almost cruelly just to keep them safe and enable them to make it to adulthood is devastating. The cruelty that we impose ...more
Jade
As he states right at the beginning of his memoir, Kiese Laymon could have written a lie. He could have sugarcoated and hidden, forgotten, and omitted. But he didn’t, and I’m so glad he told the real raw truth in Heavy. A word of warning: Heavy is going to rip your heart out more than once, and cause you to start looking at your own life in a different way. We could all tell lies, we all do tell lies… What will happen if we take a page out of Kiese Laymon’s stunning book and start telling our ow ...more
YupIReadIt
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Heavy.
Jan
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, this memoir uses radical honesty and great skill to transform a complex life with a difficult mother into a heart-wrenching personal story that also illustrates the effects of institutional racism. A challenging and important work.
Kasa Cotugno
What ever choices or challenges you may be forced to make in life, they are NOTHING compared to what it means to exist as a black man in today's America. The implementation of bodycams spawning outrage while watching the evening news, the helplessness at the tragedy felt at a watching, nightly, as lives are changed forever by impetuousness and unwarranted fear. This is Kiese's own story as he narrates to his mother. His writing is raw, but his accomplishments many, and he along with Roxanne Gay ...more
Evelyn
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I inhaled this book! I might change the rating to five stars, but I need to read it two more times to be sure.
Rachel Smalter Hall
If you like memoirs where the author rips their heart out of their chest and leaves it beating on the floor, great, because we have so much to talk about. Kiese Laymon's new memoir has left me totally speechless, but I'm going to try really hard to make words now so I can tell you how deeply I loved it.

Heavy is about a lot of things, including what happens to the body after trauma. From the time he was just a kid in Mississippi, Kiese Laymon has known exactly how much he weighs at any given mome
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kelly
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Whew, ya'll...there's something in my eyes...

This is a beautiful book. In it, writer Kiese Laymon describes growing up as a Black man in America, in the deep South of Mississippi. He discusses physical and sexual abuse as a child, the racism of his school and college years, his time as a professor at Vassar College. Within this book are two main subplots: his very complicated relationship with his mother, issues with body image and weight that he has faced for years.

This book is smart, eloquent
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Mel
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous, poetic, insightful. I'm glad I read Kiese Laymon's book of essays first because there was at least once event (at college threatening the openly racist students) he referred back to and it was useful to know him first as an intellectual writer sharing truths and then getting to peel back the curtain on his insecurities and learning about how he grew up to be who he is. They work well together and he is so talented... both are worth reading.

As he addressed the entire book to "you", his
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Karee
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, audiobook, scribd
The world needed this book a long time ago. Hands down a 5 star read!!
Mehrsa
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Powerful memoir about abuse, weight, addiction (but not the usual kind--to food, exercise, and gambling), but mostly about being black and a complicated mother-son relationship.
Steve Haruch
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A memoir that reads like a novel, Heavy grapples with racism, abuse, addiction, rape culture, body image and shame — with a kind of radical honesty and radical tenderness that is urgent and necessary. Beautiful and terrifying, and one of the most powerful books I've read in a long time.
Jade
Oct 04, 2018 marked it as to-read
As he states right at the beginning of his memoir, Kiese Laymon could have written a lie. He could have sugarcoated and hidden, forgotten, and omitted. But he didn’t, and I’m so glad he told the real raw truth in Heavy. A word of warning: Heavy is going to rip your heart out more than once, and cause you to start looking at your own life in a different way. We could all tell lies, we all do tell lies… What will happen if we take a page out of Kiese Laymon’s stunning book and start telling our ow ...more
Richard Noggle
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Laymon's Long Division was a wild, highly-stylized, deeply Southern, African-American time travel/race relations novel that made me swear I'd read anything he wrote thereafter. It was a long wait for a new book, and Heavy isn't what I expected, but it certainly delivers. Addressing the book to his mother (using second-person, a riff on Baldwin's The Fire Next Time), Laymon sets out to lay bare the truth of their relationship, which often seems equal parts love and abuse. Using the complex idea o ...more
Anne Meyer
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely brilliant, courageous, honest book. Laymon's voice is brutal and the writing is superb. I wish I could get a copy of this book for all of my students to read.
Siobhan
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Holy shit. Speechless. Weeping.
Jamal
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kiese Laid it all down here . Bold ,Bold , Honest and HEAVY . Easy 5 stars here
Lacy Johnson
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In HEAVY, Kiese Laymon asks how to survive in a body despite the many violences that are inflicted upon it: the violence of racism, of misogyny, of history — the violence of a culture that treats the bodies of black men with fear and suspicion more often than with tenderness and attentive care. In prose that sears at the same time as it soars, Kiese Laymon breaks the unbearable silence each of these violences, in their peculiar cruelty, has imposed. Permeated with humility, bravery, and a bold i ...more
Monet
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m reminded of Roxane Gay’s Hunger in the way Laymon unclothes his body and reveals it to us. I can’t think of another book that existed like Hunger and now I can’t think of another book that exists like Heavy. You’ll want to say you read both of these books in their first moments of existing.
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. A raw and powerful read about growing up black in Mississippi, about growing up heavy, about growing up with some amazing women in his life who were both strong and proud and also flawed. So much in this one about secrets, about deciding who you are, and about facing your own demons. Laymon made me pause and think throughout the entire book -- he is an incredible writer and there were many passages that I highlighted as I read it. The elements of his memoir on weight and body image we ...more
Cady
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't look away or put Laymon's devastating memoir down. Laymon's writing is tender, raw, and fierce, ripping through your heart as he explores what it really means to love honestly as a black man who's inherited a legacy of horrific racial violence in the American South.
Samuel
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book I underlined and marked paragraphs on multiple pages, felt through the page, heard, and will read again.
Samantha
Goodness, this book is small but somehow (un)packs so much about masculinity and Blackness and body image and language and mental illness and and and. Keise Laymon leaves the reader with so much to think about, through his life's stories and brilliant writing. Memoir writers and readers, take note, the bar has been raised by this book.
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Kiese Laymon is a black southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University before graduating from Oberlin College. He earned an MFA from Indiana University and is the author of the forthcoming novel, Long Division in June 2013 and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America in August 2013. Laymon is ...more
“I didn’t understand hell, partially because I didn’t believe any place could be hotter than Mississippi in August. But I understood feeling good. I did not feel good at Concord Missionary Baptist church. I felt good watching Grandmama and her friends love each other during Home Mission.” 1 likes
“Mostly, I wondered what black writers weren't writing when we spent so much creative energy begging white folk to change.” 0 likes
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