Heavy
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.

Heavy Details

TitleHeavy
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 16th, 2018
PublisherScribner
ISBN-139781501125652
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Biography, Race

Heavy Review

  • Roxane
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 beside the point but what and how he writes in this exceptional book are, indeed, acts of courageous grace.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    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. 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. The memoir is divided into four parts, each with four sections, all addressed to Laymon's mother, a college professor who struggled to care for herself as she pushed her son to be his best. Laymon is talented at capturing a person's strengths as well as their flaws, including his own, and his prose is rhythmic and full of memorable lines.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    "I wanted to write a lieI wanted that lie to be titillating.I wrote that lie.It was titillating.You would have loved it.I discovered nothing.You would have loved it.I started over and wrote what we hoped I'd forget."So begins this letter, memoir that Laymon writes for and to his mother. Growing up in Jackson. Mississippi, to a brilliant and difficult to understand mother, he struggles to understand his place in the world, in his family. A house filled with books, and a mother that alternately hu "I wanted to write a lieI wanted that lie to be titillating.I wrote that lie.It was titillating.You would have loved it.I discovered nothing.You would have loved it.I started over and wrote what we hoped I'd forget."So begins this letter, memoir that Laymon writes for and to his mother. Growing up in Jackson. Mississippi, to a brilliant and difficult to understand mother, he struggles to understand his place in the world, in his family. A house filled with books, and a mother that alternately hugged him and punished him by beating him. He struggled with his weight, struggled with other people's opinion and his own blackness, his thoughts on sex. I am not black, I can read but empathise, but not really understand. Do know that this is an amazingly powerful book. I do know and can feel his anguish expressed so honestly in these pages. I do believe this is s book everyone, regardless of color or sex, should read.
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  • Tucker
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 truth was intense, brave, and emotionally raw and wrenching. A huge thank you to Laymon for his willingness to so honestly bare his pain and his heart, and for doing so with such exquisite and eloquent writing. This is a book I won’t soon forget and I highly recommend it.Thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    I find this memoir near impossible to review for a number of reasons: the book was near impossible to read for me; the book is brilliant; the book is not written for me.If you only take one thing from my review, let it be this: Kiese Laymon is utterly, utterly brilliant. On a simple sentence by sentence level his writing is absolutely stunning, it wrecked me in the perfection of his prose. But even more so, the structure of this memoir is impeccable and the way he tells his story and makes is po I find this memoir near impossible to review for a number of reasons: the book was near impossible to read for me; the book is brilliant; the book is not written for me.If you only take one thing from my review, let it be this: Kiese Laymon is utterly, utterly brilliant. On a simple sentence by sentence level his writing is absolutely stunning, it wrecked me in the perfection of his prose. But even more so, the structure of this memoir is impeccable and the way he tells his story and makes is points is just brilliant. I read very many memoirs but it is rare that I have a reaction as visceral as I had here. The whole book is a lesson in how to gut your reader with your words. And I mean this in the best possible way (and the worst: it took me forever to finish this because I needed to take breaks to read something else).Laymon tells the story of his body – and how his relationship to his body is influenced by his difficult relationship to his mother. The way he grounds his experiences in the way his body reacted to them added a layer to this memoir that I appreciated immensely. Written in second person narration addressing his mum, Laymon lays it all bare for the world to see. Especially the first and last chapters really drove home how incredible his craft is and how deep the cuts his life made are. I found the book near unbearable in the claustrophobia of the unfairness of it all: the unfairness of racism, of poverty, of eating disorder, of addiction. The book is this successful because it is written for black people rather than about black people – a point Laymon makes at various points throughout the book, something he learned from his mother and his own mistakes.Ultimately this is an intimate love/hate letter to the most important person in his life and I feel very grateful to have been able to read this.You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog.
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    I've struggled with this book - reading it, reviewing it - for a host of reasons. There has been a lot of discussion in Instagram about white people reading black memoirs and adding to the audience of suffering. I haven't participated in the discussion but I have been following it to a small extent. On Friday, I went to a Beloved Community breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr., with 200 or so people from my community gathering together. The speaker was Wade Davis, an activist who is openly g I've struggled with this book - reading it, reviewing it - for a host of reasons. There has been a lot of discussion in Instagram about white people reading black memoirs and adding to the audience of suffering. I haven't participated in the discussion but I have been following it to a small extent. On Friday, I went to a Beloved Community breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr., with 200 or so people from my community gathering together. The speaker was Wade Davis, an activist who is openly gay but also works against toxic masculinity, etc. His advice had several points but ended with telling everyone they should read - read books by people who are not like you, read to understand them, to gain empathy, until they are you and you do not see them as the other. So this is the perspective through which I read Laymon's memoir. I was first introduced to this book at AWP in Tampa, when I attended a panel called "This is Scary and Here We Go: Fear in the Driver's Seat." Kiese was not on the list of authors to present but so many people were unable to get to the conference because of winter storms that there were missing presenters all over the place, and he was able to fill in for another writer on this one. He shared about this book, which he had recently finished, and how full of second guessing he was, by how much he'd shared, how honest he'd been, how he had to write it but wish he hadn't. I knew it would not be an easy read.Laymon explores what it's like to move through the world in a black body, it's true, and that's often the first thing people say. But his body is also one that has not been protected in other ways. He has suffered what reads between the lines like inappropriate sexual contact with family members from a young age, because of his size and availability. The entire narrative is addressed to his mother, who is the "you," but it can make for an uncomfortable reading experience as it feels addressed to the reader. Members of his family struggle with different types of addiction and at first it just seems like drugs, but then more is revealed, and all seems tied to his weight - the weight of secrets, the weight of being physically heavy, the weight of carrying financial worry, the weight of unhealthful lightness, the weight of imposter syndrome in academia paired with insane accusations at every stage of achievement, whether it's an A paper or a tenure review. Here it is, on the page. It feels like he wrote it because he had to. I don't know if I felt completely comfortable participating in that process, but maybe that's the side of heavy that can turn positive - if you move through life and go ahead and take up space, other people can deal with it however they want, and how they do is really none of your business. I think that is the way that I most resonate with his narrative. I received an eARC from the publisher through Edelweiss, but the book has been out since October 16, 2018, and made a lot of books of the year lists. It took me a while longer to get through it, but I am glad I read it.
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 complicated, fraught, and deep relationship with his mother, and the disordered eating and body image issues he faced for years and years. Laymon's writing about these two areas invites us to think and to feel about several pressing, heartrending topics, such as the ways that we replicate the abusive relationship styles modeled to us by our country and our elders, as well as how marginalized people use our bodies to cope with or block out discrimination. Laymon is intelligent, eloquent, and raw. The comparisons to Roxane Gay are most definitely warranted.I most loved Heavy for how Laymon speaks truth to power. He writes about how the system (e.g., the United States, higher education within the United States) is rigged against people of color - especially black and brown people - with passion and poignancy. As someone in academia, I felt both inspired and saddened reading Laymon's revelations about his time in the academy, inspired by his courage and saddened that he and so many others suffer. I also appreciated Laymon's willingness to admit to his own shortcomings, such as how he has failed some students and committed errors in his relationships.Overall, a moving memoir I would recommend to fans of the genre and those interested in race, body image/disordered eating, and parent/child dynamics. There were a few places where I felt like certain things could have been more explicitly addressed (e.g., so how did the recovery or lack thereof from disordered eating and gambling happen? how did he feel about his mother when certain things happened?) but that's just my personal preference. Looking forward to reading more of Laymon's work.
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 the book. It is the weight of trauma kept secret, the weight of generations of black oppression, the weight of truths unspoken, the weight of shame, the weight of expectations, and the actual weight of an actual body. I could feel as I read it, the memory of the original lie Laymon wrote which he could not let stand, and then started over to write this book. The contrast of the truth, the way he forces himself to lay out the facts, but also shows the power of the lie and the lies he tells himself in the choices he makes. All of this makes it one of those memoirs that feels singular, that carves out a new way to show yourself to the world. (For me, it is up there with recent works like HUNGER, NEGROLAND, and THE FACT OF A BODY in that respect.)Structurally, it is a traditional memoir. It moves forward in linear time, it focuses on certain formative periods, it charts the development of the person the author is now. It is also, it seems, his own attempt to call himself to action while acknowledging all along the way that one thing he has learned so far is that these calls rarely go the way you want them to. Life does not usually give us these simple structures of obstacle followed by growth, so often it is obstacle followed by failure which leads to more failure and an ever-growing spiral of shame. Laymon has the gift of knowledge, of insight, of words, of education, but sometimes all that gives him is the ability to know just how far he has gone wrong.Laymon grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, raised by a single mother who is also a professor. She surrounds him with books, she assigns him essays, she is in many ways that stereotypical black parent who demands their black child work twice as hard. She also hits him, lies to him, steals from him, and falls into patterns of abuse and addiction that have been passed down to her and that she will in turn pass down to Laymon. As the book tells their story, it also reckons with the heritage of being black in the deep South, what it means to be there, and what it means to leave. It is not that the way Laymon writes about her is unflinching, it is that he lets you see him flinch, see how much he loves her and how much it hurts him to be hurt by her and now to hurt her in return by laying it all bare. I have been a fan of Laymon's for years, his novel LONG DIVISION is one of my favorites, and I have never read one of his essays that wasn't sublime. HEAVY is an even bigger achievement: masterfully written, moving effortlessly from personal confession to societal critique, seeing the intricacies of the author as well as his place in a bigger world. I was tempted to underline something on almost every page. The only reason I wasn't constantly sharing pictures of it on Instagram Stories was because I never wanted to share just one sentence, I wanted to share whole paragraphs and pages. I actually feel a little bit of guilt writing a good review because Laymon is so unabashedly honest about himself, about addictions and abuse and eating disorders, about his family and his relationships, that it feels like a betrayal to share it publicly. It is truly a gift to write this way and I hope we do not squander it.
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  • Reggie
    January 1, 1970
    Heavy is a memoir that reads like the best novels. A work of art that warrants plenty discussion and begs for dissection. A book that is a force for radical honesty, sincerity and reckoning in society. Laymon knows that if society as a whole cannot deal with our personal histories with radical honesty & sincerity then the United States will continue to be the revolving door of denial that it's always been.His freedom dream is imaginative, utopian, and so difficult to obtain that it might be Heavy is a memoir that reads like the best novels. A work of art that warrants plenty discussion and begs for dissection. A book that is a force for radical honesty, sincerity and reckoning in society. Laymon knows that if society as a whole cannot deal with our personal histories with radical honesty & sincerity then the United States will continue to be the revolving door of denial that it's always been.His freedom dream is imaginative, utopian, and so difficult to obtain that it might be impossible, but I'm glad it's available for us to read, and hopefully apply.
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  • Darlene
    January 1, 1970
    I have been attempting to write a review for this memoir, 'Heavy: An American Memoir' by Kiese Laymon for about a week. I can't explain why I've been having such a difficult time finding the words to describe this book and my feelings about it, especially since I consider it one of the most powerful memoirs I have ever read. Initially, I read a print copy of this book... which I've filled with post-it notes to mark various passages I wanted to return to. After finishing the print copy, I immedia I have been attempting to write a review for this memoir, 'Heavy: An American Memoir' by Kiese Laymon for about a week. I can't explain why I've been having such a difficult time finding the words to describe this book and my feelings about it, especially since I consider it one of the most powerful memoirs I have ever read. Initially, I read a print copy of this book... which I've filled with post-it notes to mark various passages I wanted to return to. After finishing the print copy, I immediately obtained the audiobook just so I could listen to Kiese Laymon, himself, speak his eloquent words into my ear. Kiese Laymon wrote this memoir in second person, addressing his thoughts to his mother.. a fiercely intelligent, highly educated woman with whom he has had a loving though fraught and complicated relationship. Although it's obvious that the two have had a close relationship, Kiese also struggled with aspects of their mother/son relationship which had also been damaging to him emotionally. He expressed these feelings beautifully in the opening pages.... "I did not want to write to you. I wanted to write a lie. I did not want to write honestly about black lies, black thighs, black loves, black laughs, black foods, black addictions.... black parents or black children..... I did not want to write about us. I wanted to write an American memoir. I realized.. we didn't simply love each other. We were of two vastly generations of blackness, but I was your child. We had the same husky thighs, short arms, full cheeks, mushy insides, and minced imaginations. We were excellent at working until our bodies gave out, excellent at laughing and laughing until we didn't. We were excellent at hiding and misdirecting, swearing up and down we were naked when we were fully clothed. Our heart meat was thick. Once punctured though, we waltzed those hearts into war without a plan of escape. No matter how terrified or hurt we were, we didn't dare ask anybody for help....."Determined that her son would be successful and safe in his life and yet fully and painfully aware of the challenges he would be up against, Kiese's mother punished him with regular beatings for falling short of the expectations she had for him. She also demanded that he read voraciously from their home filled with books... but never much food.... and write critical essays about those books he had been reading. Seemingly never satisfied with his efforts, she made him write, revise and rewrite.. constantly reminding him that to be successful in America, he would be judged and held to a much higher standard than the white people around him. When Kiese fell short of her expectations, she told him.... "excellence, education and accountability were requirements for keeping black boys in Mississippi healthy and safe from white folk."Kiese began his memoir with a memory from when he was 11-years-old, 5'9" and 208 pounds. He was always acutely aware of the heaviness of his body.. and the way he would sweat, the fleshiness of his thighs and the stretch marks that ran over his body. In fact, his body is an anchor to his story.. a marker he uses to navigate through the memories of his childhood and young adulthood... memories involving his mother, grandmama, friends and girlfriends. The size of his body and his obsession with food, at first for the emotional comfort it provided him and later for the disgust and revulsion he began to feel toward it, is a main theme in this book. His body seems the central focus of the memoir but I came to realize that his struggle with food and weight and the size of his body were somehow more than they first appeared. Kiese Laymon's struggles with meeting his mother's expectations and his own expectations all seemed to be part of and maybe symbolic of a far greater struggle. This memoir is about so many things... physical abuse, sexual abuse and violence, struggles with weight, self-starvation, addiction (both to food and gambling),and what it means to be a black boy growing up in Jackson, Mississippi. It's also a love letter from Kiese Laymon to his mother, despite or maybe because of all the struggles they had shared. Kiese's love and appreciation shone through in his words..... "I will remember that I am your child, and really you are mine.... I will remind you that I did not write this book to you simply because you are a black woman, or deeply southern, or because you taught me to read and write. I wrote this book to you because, even though we harmed each other as American parents and children tend to do, you did everything you could to make sure the nation and our state did not harm their most vulnerable children... There will always be scars on, and in, my body from where you harmed me. You will always have scars on, and in your body from those who harmed you.... You and I have nothing and everything to be ashamed of, but I am no longer ashamed of this heavy black body you helped create. I know our beautiful, bruised black bodies are where we bend."Kiese Laymon's memoir, I believe, is also a message to his country. His struggles as a black boy and now a black man are AMERICA'S struggles.... directly tied to the way that America lies to itself in that self-congratulatory way about its own inherent goodness... or 'exceptionalism'...; and its inability to acknowledge and reckon with its history of racism and oppression.. a history which isn't really in the past.... economic disempowerment, mass incarceration and the gunning down by police of young black men (Tamir Rice, in Cleveland) come to mind. But in writing these words, I finally realize where my discomfort in writing about this memoir comes from. I'm not the person who should be delivering this message. These are Kiese Laymon's words and he is so much more eloquent than I..... "For a few seconds, I remembered that the most abusive parts of our nation obsessively neglect yesterday while peddling in possibility. I remembered that we got here by refusing to honestly remember together. I remembered that it was easier to promise than it was to reckon or change.... I finally understood there can be no liberation when our most intimate relationships are built on- and really infected by-deceptions, abuse, misdirection, antiblackness, patriarchy and bald-faced lies."This book was not an easy read, despite its beautiful language. In fact, reading it caused me a great deal of distress. Kiese Laymon's words were not cruel so much as they were honest and pointed. His anger, hurt and shame were on display for the world to see. Read this book.... and if you're so inclined, listen to the audiobook. Kiese Laymon's words AND his voice are powerful.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the hardest reviews I've ever attempted to write. Probably because, as my friend Hannah so aptly put it in her own review, this book was not written for me. But that's what was so admirable about it. Kiese Laymon states clearly in the prologue to his memoir that he has no intention of writing a sanitized, palatable version of events; it's almost painful in its honesty but it's for this reason that I think this book is so crucial and necessary (especially for non-black readers).Hea This is one of the hardest reviews I've ever attempted to write. Probably because, as my friend Hannah so aptly put it in her own review, this book was not written for me. But that's what was so admirable about it. Kiese Laymon states clearly in the prologue to his memoir that he has no intention of writing a sanitized, palatable version of events; it's almost painful in its honesty but it's for this reason that I think this book is so crucial and necessary (especially for non-black readers).Heavy is Laymon's visceral and fearless attempt at reckoning with a number of issues that have plagued him his entire life - his relationship with his mother whose uncompromising expectations for her son often resulted in abuse, his fraught relationship with his own body, addiction, trauma, poverty, education, masculinity, and ultimately what it means to be black in America. The honesty and nuance with which he examines anecdotes from his childhood, even more than the anecdotes themselves, make this an unforgettable read.(4 stars instead of 5 because ratings are subjective and I never ever end up connecting with audiobooks as well as when I'm reading printed text, which isn't to say that Kiese Laymon did a bad job with the narration - on the contrary he was a joy to listen to - but I'm just not an auditory person. Anyway, this was brilliant.)
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  • Dianne
    January 1, 1970
    “Heavy” is a……well, a very heavy memoir.Kiese Laymon recounts his life growing up in a dysfunctional home as the heavyset black son of an exacting and troubled single mother in a Jackson, Mississippi. His mother is highly educated and demands excellence from her only son. She also has a heavy hand, and regularly beats Kiese when she feels he is not “striving for excellence, education and accountability when excellence, education and accountability were requirements for keeping the insides of bla “Heavy” is a……well, a very heavy memoir.Kiese Laymon recounts his life growing up in a dysfunctional home as the heavyset black son of an exacting and troubled single mother in a Jackson, Mississippi. His mother is highly educated and demands excellence from her only son. She also has a heavy hand, and regularly beats Kiese when she feels he is not “striving for excellence, education and accountability when excellence, education and accountability were requirements for keeping the insides of black boys in Mississippi healthy and safe from white folk.”Kiese’s childhood is filled with various kinds of trauma including sexual violence, abuse, broken relationships and addictions. As he becomes an adult and goes to college, he wages war with his body, swinging between obesity and near anorexia in an attempt to contain his demons. He judges himself brutally, as hard on himself as his mother has taught him to be. Kiese becomes an adjunct professor at Vassar and develops a gambling addiction, which also plagues his mother. Finally, at a breaking point, he and his mother agree to be honest with each other and stop lying and skirting around all the trauma and drama that lies between them.The narrative of this memoir is Kiese writing to his mother, his attempt at honesty and vulnerability and it is RAW. It is not just the story of one fiercely demanding mother and her son, it is the story of being black in an America where you need to be “excellent, disciplined, elegant, emotionally contained, clean and perfect in the face of American white supremacy.”Kiese writes, “I wrote this book to you because, even though we harmed each other as American parents and children tend to do, you did everything you could to make sure the nation and our state did not harm their most vulnerable children. I will tell you that white folk and white power often helped me feel gross, criminal, angry, and scared as a child, but they could never make me feel intellectually incapable because I was your child.”There is a lot to absorb and ponder in this memoir. It made me really listen, it made me reflect, it made me feel, and I’m so glad I read it.
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    Now Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction - well-deserved!! Kiese Laymon writes about his life growing up as a black man in Mississippi and how racism and violence result in lies and addiction - lies to oneself and all loved ones because the truth is too painfully overwhelming and the perceived feeling of defeat too shameful, addiction because it promises some degree of comfort (over-eating and drugs), control (starving), or freedom by surrender (gambling). Laymon's writing is dark, intens Now Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction - well-deserved!! Kiese Laymon writes about his life growing up as a black man in Mississippi and how racism and violence result in lies and addiction - lies to oneself and all loved ones because the truth is too painfully overwhelming and the perceived feeling of defeat too shameful, addiction because it promises some degree of comfort (over-eating and drugs), control (starving), or freedom by surrender (gambling). Laymon's writing is dark, intense, poetic, angry, desperate, full of resolve, honest and intelligent - this is a great, great book. Laymon, who is a professor of Creative Writing in the MFA program at the University of Mississippi, was raised by a single mother who pushed him to excellence because she felt like this was the only way to survive the dangers of racism in the Deep South, violently beating her on son when he did not perform as she expected him to while she herself was abused by her boyfriend. This difficult mother-son-relationship is the main vein of the memoir, and Laymon mirrors both characters in their triumphs, fears and shortcomings. Both strive for careers in academia, struggle with institutional racism, have money issues, and keep secrets - and both know and defend the beauty and strength of black culture while also struggling with outside pressures that can, in a perverse and common psychological twist, easily lead to self-punishment. The forces aiming to destruct the black body can evoke defense mechanisms that ultimately serve the status quo - as the first step to stop that dynamic, Laymon calls for more honesty:"I did not want to write about us. I wanted to write an American memoir. I wanted to write a lie. (...) no one in our family - and very few folk in this nation - has any desire to reckon with the weight of where we've been, which means no one in our family - and very few folk in this nation - wants to be free."Read this book.
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  • Monica **can't read fast enough**
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 upon each other in the name of love, self defense, and even self love is mind boggling. The amount of abuse that people are willing to dish out and accept in order to feel the slightest hint of love and acceptance is mortifying. Heavy will gut you in the most necessary way. While reading Heavy you won't be able to hide from the ugly truths. Seeing the devastation that is heaped upon the hearts and minds of our community through the experiences of Laymon cannot be denied once you experience this memoir. Since you can't heal what you won't acknowledge Heavy is a must read. You can find me at:•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•Twitter: @MonlatReaderInstagram: @readermonicaFacebook: Monica Reeds Goodreads Group: The Black Bookcase
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    [4+] Kiese Laymon writes about his experiences with such immediacy that I felt as if I knew him when he was 9, 10, 16, 18, 21, 30 etc. There is no distance, he is living it on the pages. He shares the heaviness of his complicated relationship with his mother, his body, the white world around him in a way both sorrowful and graceful. I hope there is more to come from him. The audiobook was powerfully read by the author.
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  • Jamise // Spines & Vines
    January 1, 1970
    WOW, what a book! How do you call something so heartbreaking BRILLIANT? The writing is stunning, the vulernability on display is breathtaking and the delivery is masterful. There were times that I forgot I was reading a memoir because it reads like the perfect novel. Kiese Laymon delves into many “heavy” topics -- the struggle of living life as a man in a black body, his weight, abuse, sex, racism, gambling, education, friendships & family dynamics. I don't think there was a topic that was n WOW, what a book! How do you call something so heartbreaking BRILLIANT? The writing is stunning, the vulernability on display is breathtaking and the delivery is masterful. There were times that I forgot I was reading a memoir because it reads like the perfect novel. ⁣⁣Kiese Laymon delves into many “heavy” topics -- the struggle of living life as a man in a black body, his weight, abuse, sex, racism, gambling, education, friendships & family dynamics. I don't think there was a topic that was not touched in this deeply raw memoir. ⁣⁣Laymon writes in second person, addressing himself to his mother unearthing secrets and lies that they buried throughout their lives.⁣⁣Put this on your TBR list. I’m recommending it to everyone!! ⁣
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    "I wanted to write a lie. You wanted to read a lie. I wrote this to you instead because I am your child, and you are mine. You are also my mother and I am your son. Please do not be mad at me, Mamma. I am just trying to put you where I bend. I am just trying to put us where we bend."Mother's Response:These Are Your Memories Typically when I read a memoir I am trying to see through the other person's eyes, attempting to understand how their past bought them to where they are now. At times I strug "I wanted to write a lie. You wanted to read a lie. I wrote this to you instead because I am your child, and you are mine. You are also my mother and I am your son. Please do not be mad at me, Mamma. I am just trying to put you where I bend. I am just trying to put us where we bend."Mother's Response:These Are Your Memories Typically when I read a memoir I am trying to see through the other person's eyes, attempting to understand how their past bought them to where they are now. At times I struggle with not being judgmental of their choices. I am more mature now. I recognize that life is always viewed better from afar, through hindsight. That growth notwithstanding, Heavy is an honest account that exposes not only the author's vulnerabilities but the reader's as well. " I share with painters the desire to put a three-dimensional picture on a one-dimensional surface." I found myself not as an outsider looking in but felt as if I had been dropped into the fray and was experiencing the book up close. As a black academic I couldn't help but read Layman's words and hear the echo of my own sons' voices. I wondered how many times while I was in the lab that my children felt unsafe. How many times did I think they were tucked safely away that they could have possibly been exposed to sexual violence? How many secrets have they kept for fear of hurting me. I was scared to ponder about when my love may have caused them pain. Layman lays his life bare before us with all of its ugly truths. In his eloquent rendering he is not a martyr nor his mother a monster. They are two people who love each other deeply, imperfectly.
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  • jo
    January 1, 1970
    i read this in three days and i am a slow reader. i am a bit shell-shocked. i feel i've been thrown into the spin cycle of the washing machine i don't have and kept there for 72 hours. i also feel tremendously humbled. i cannot say anything about this book because i'm not black and i'm not american. but i'm trying to learn, and i hope to have learned at least a fraction of what kiese laymon is offering in this incredible memoir.
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  • Kimberly Dawn
    January 1, 1970
    Love truth even if it hurts you.- African proverbKiese Laymon will always carry with him some HEAVY burdens. The brilliant, brutally honest account of the pain Kiese suffered by growing up black in Mississippi, and still suffers, being black in America.His personal story is a part of the much larger story of racism in America. You will wince and recoil as you feel Kiese’s pain. It will inform your thinking on a new level. Dear white people in America, please read this important book!
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  • Andre
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 heights not generally seen in memoir writing. Laymon seems to have fastidiously labored over every sentence and that meticulousness makes for an absolutely wonderful read. Right from the start Laymon states, speaking to his mother “I did not want to write to you. I wanted to write a lie. I did not want to write honestly about black lies, black thighs, black loves, black laughs, black foods, black addictions, black stretch marks, black dollars, black words, black abuses, black blues, black belly buttons, black wins, black beens, black bends, black consent, or black children. I did not want to write about us. I wanted to write a lie.” But, he did not write the lie. He bravely wrote the truth in all its ugliness. That opening was bracing, preparing, indeed apologizing to his mother for what would eventually appear on these pages.The prose is exquisite and although the subject matter is mostly heavy, at times the handling is light but the constant is the honesty. A virtuous baring of the soul, he frequently takes the reader right to the edge but doesn't shove us into the abyss, always leaving room for the necessary deep breaths to take in all that we are digesting from the page. And Laymon delivers, sentence after sentence. You clearly know you are in the hands of a writer that has spent serious time perfecting the mechanics of writing. It is easy to marvel at the construction of paragraphs and it all adds up to what is an extraordinary work.I have intentionally avoided writing about the content of the book, it's his life in book form, just know that you are in for a fascinating ride with highs, lows, laughs, sighs and maybe tears. “We will not ever have to be this way. I wanted to write a lie. You wanted to read a lie. I wrote this to you instead because I am your child, and you are mine. You are also my mother and I am your son. Please do not be mad at me, Mama. I was just trying to put you where I’ve been. I am just trying to put you where I bend.” Thank you Kiese Laymon for sharing, there is no doubt that your act of fearlessness will help countless others as they grapple with their own struggles. A big thank you to Scribner Books and Edelweiss for an advanced DRC. Book drops October 16, 2018.
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  • Aleatha
    January 1, 1970
    I've been waiting on this book all year and it didn't disappoint.
  • Ava Butzu
    January 1, 1970
    I don't think I have ever wanted so desperately to re-read a book as much as I want to re-read "Heavy." The author, Kiese Laymon, subtitled his book "An American Memoir," but it could just as easily have been sub-subtitled "A Writer's Memoir." But Laymon is not just any writer. He is a heroic wordsmith, an acrobatic stunter of syntax, a tenacious deep sea diver of emotion, a noble explorer of the dusty and horrifying paragraphs of his life.I haven't re-read anything in over 25 years. I knew half I don't think I have ever wanted so desperately to re-read a book as much as I want to re-read "Heavy." The author, Kiese Laymon, subtitled his book "An American Memoir," but it could just as easily have been sub-subtitled "A Writer's Memoir." But Laymon is not just any writer. He is a heroic wordsmith, an acrobatic stunter of syntax, a tenacious deep sea diver of emotion, a noble explorer of the dusty and horrifying paragraphs of his life.I haven't re-read anything in over 25 years. I knew halfway through the book that I needed to re-read this. And then I ran across this sentence in the book: "I learned you haven’t read anything if you’ve only read something once or twice. Reading things more than twice was the reader version of revision."I need to re-read "Heavy" to understand a world I have not, and can never inhabit. Laymon grew up Black in Mississippi, an area I have been dug into reading about in the past few months, trying to understand its culture, its history, its racism. But my mistake was this: I was reading only white writers. Laymon writes of this dilemma after reading Toni Cade Bambara's "Gorilla My Love":(please pardon the length of this excerpt - I just couldn't shorten it):"The first sentence of the book showed me first sentences could be roller coasters designed especially for us. I read it again, then I wrote it. Bobmara took what Welty did best and created worlds where no one was sheltered, cloistered, or white but everyone in some form or fashion was weird, wonderful, slightly wack, and all the way black. Blackness in all its boredom and boom was the historical and imaginative context in Bombara’s work.I wanted to be that kind of free on and off the page. I wanted to write something some day with that kind of sentence and I wanted that kind of first sentence to be written to me every day for the rest of my life.I still wrote every night and revised every morning. But practicing crafting formidable sentences just made me a formidable sentence writer. The other part of writing required something more than just practice. Something more than reading too. It required loads of unsentimental explorations of black love. It required an acceptance of “our strange” and mostly, it required a commitment to new structures. Not reformation.I spent 18 years reading the work of supposed excellent sentence writers who did not love, or really see us.Many wrote for us without writing to us. After reading Bombara, I wondered for the first time how great an American sentence, paragraph or book could be if it wasn’t written at least partially to or for Black Americans in the deep South."I have read and re-read this section tens of times. After spending all of my adult life trying to understand why and how we are human, I feel that he is just beginning to crack the hard surface of humanity. This is how deeply I have fallen in love with Kiese Laymon upon finishing "Heavy." He writes his memoir TO his mother (the "you" pronoun feels so honest and confessional here) and recounts key moments in his life that have shaped his mind, and his body - both of which are invariably heavy - and light - at different points of his life. It is stunning.There are a multitude of sections on writing that I hope to take with me into the sunset of my teaching career, and the rest of my thinking career. I'll be re-reading "Heavy" soon.
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  • Kate ☀️ Olson
    January 1, 1970
    This memoir via audio felt like I, as the listener, was absorbing punch after punch after punishing blow. No relenting. Laymon addresses his words to his mother, and speaks TO her. That means in my ears, I heard him addressing ME. I was the one who beat him as a child. I was the one who hurt him and was hurt by him.As a white woman listening to this memoir, I was crawling in my skin and sitting with the realization that the majority of his pain is caused, whether directly or indirectly, by the s This memoir via audio felt like I, as the listener, was absorbing punch after punch after punishing blow. No relenting. Laymon addresses his words to his mother, and speaks TO her. That means in my ears, I heard him addressing ME. I was the one who beat him as a child. I was the one who hurt him and was hurt by him.As a white woman listening to this memoir, I was crawling in my skin and sitting with the realization that the majority of his pain is caused, whether directly or indirectly, by the systemic oppression and racism in the United States. I have never met the author, but the systems I draw privilege from are the systems that, through generations, led to his depression, and eating disorder and later addiction. His professor mother's poverty. Her later addiction. Her abuse of him, perhaps. I am inclined to believe that, after reading the following in The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson:"....there would be no appeals, the punishment swift and physical. The arbitrary nature of grown people's wrath gave colored children practice for life in the caste system, which is why parents, forced to train their children in the ways of subservience, treated their children as the white people running things treated them. It was preparation for the lower-caste role children were expected to have mastered by puberty."There are masses of professional reviews of this book. As a "casual" reviewer, I can't touch those pages-long pieces. You should read them. What I can tell you is that this book is brutal in its format and content. It covers topics that no one wants to have in their ears - abuse, sexual abuse, sexual violence, eating disorders, body hatred, self-abuse, gambling addiction, and more. It is a book I want to have read on paper so I could separate myself from it, but on the other hand, I feel like by listening, I bore witness to his pain in a much more personal way. This is a vital read for America.While reading, however, please consider your personal triggers and mental health. I had to take breaks and do some serious work to bring myself back from the painful discussions of of Laymon's eating disorder and compulsive exercise. As a person in recovery myself, the discussion of the joys of losing weight and starving himself and exercising to the point of passing out - the euphoria - was NOT a good place to put myself. The gambling addiction hit me so hard as it brought me back to a family member's spiral.I consider this book a trial for white America to rightfully bear, and a literary masterpiece for the world to applaud. Just take care of yourself while experiencing.
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  • Evelyn
    January 1, 1970
    I inhaled this book! I might change the rating to five stars, but I need to read it two more times to be sure.
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Just brilliant. If I was to write a full review of this it'd be jam-packed with all the superlatives. Just go and read it!
  • lit.erary.britt
    January 1, 1970
    This often poetic memoir reads as an open letter to Laymon’s mother. She always taught him not to excuse mediocrity. That as a black man he had to try harder, work harder. That he had to articulate his words. Yet, in her strict teachings, she overstepped boundaries. This is about the things that make and break us. Laymon excelled and succeeded, but in the process, he punished his body. It was one thing he could control. This is an honest, painful, and beautiful account of his life thus far. I wa This often poetic memoir reads as an open letter to Laymon’s mother. She always taught him not to excuse mediocrity. That as a black man he had to try harder, work harder. That he had to articulate his words. Yet, in her strict teachings, she overstepped boundaries. This is about the things that make and break us. Laymon excelled and succeeded, but in the process, he punished his body. It was one thing he could control. This is an honest, painful, and beautiful account of his life thus far. I want to thank him for sharing his story.
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  • Chelsea A
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book in a day and a half. I became absorbed in it almost instantly. I don't usually read prologues/prefaces/whatever you want to call them, but something told me to read this one. From him telling the reader what he wanted to write--what he did write and scrapped to write this, the truth he didn't want to remember--I knew this was going to be a special book from a special author. It is, as the title suggests, heavy. It is also raw, brave, vulnerable, extremely intimate, painfully hon I read this book in a day and a half. I became absorbed in it almost instantly. I don't usually read prologues/prefaces/whatever you want to call them, but something told me to read this one. From him telling the reader what he wanted to write--what he did write and scrapped to write this, the truth he didn't want to remember--I knew this was going to be a special book from a special author. It is, as the title suggests, heavy. It is also raw, brave, vulnerable, extremely intimate, painfully honest, emotion inducing, poignant, and about a hundred other things. It is everything that makes a memoir excellent. This is the type of beautifully barefaced creative nonfiction writing that makes you feel. And aside from Keise Laymon writing in a way that makes you think, feel, and listen...stylistically, his pen is great as well. I'll just leave half a sentence as an example "Two miles from all those promises and three minutes from our last cliche..." I don't know, I just really love that line. I did not know about Keise Laymon before this book showed up at the library. I just so happened to be the one tasked with putting a new sticker on it, and I just so happened to need a book to read. I'm glad I read it, and I am going to read more of his work in the coming days. And I'm about to move that new Liane Moriarty over and put this on the front and center display.
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  • Deb Jones
    January 1, 1970
    I'm always interested in learning about other people's perspectives and life experiences. Heavy answered those needs for me in a very real way. Author Kiese Laymon seems to have laid bare his childhood, adolescence and early adulthood in ways that I'm not sure I'd be forthcoming enough to do. Heavy is not an easy read -- not due to the writing, which is fluid and easy to understand -- but because of the subject matter, insights and deep emotions revealed.This was a reading journey worth taking f I'm always interested in learning about other people's perspectives and life experiences. Heavy answered those needs for me in a very real way. Author Kiese Laymon seems to have laid bare his childhood, adolescence and early adulthood in ways that I'm not sure I'd be forthcoming enough to do. Heavy is not an easy read -- not due to the writing, which is fluid and easy to understand -- but because of the subject matter, insights and deep emotions revealed.This was a reading journey worth taking for me.
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  • Nikki (Saturday Nite Reader)
    January 1, 1970
    I finished the audiobook for Heavy a few days ago and have sat on my review, as I wanted to make sure I was doing the book justice. I still don’t know if I could, but I am certainly going to try.There is something very powerful about an author who narrates their own memoir. Writing a memoir alone, an author deserves all the stars for putting their story out there to be judged by others. Kiese’s story was not owed to us, and I look at it as a gift. Thank you for your truth and for teaching me som I finished the audiobook for Heavy a few days ago and have sat on my review, as I wanted to make sure I was doing the book justice. I still don’t know if I could, but I am certainly going to try.There is something very powerful about an author who narrates their own memoir. Writing a memoir alone, an author deserves all the stars for putting their story out there to be judged by others. Kiese’s story was not owed to us, and I look at it as a gift. Thank you for your truth and for teaching me something about myself: reflecting on the disappointment of a loved one who is supposed to protect you not hurt you, struggling with body issues where it doesn’t matter how bad you feel on the inside as long as you look good on the outside, understanding that I’ve had the privilege of not worrying about my race - really truly understanding the meaning of that and opening myself up to learning how I can be better.I cannot recommend this audiobook enough. It is a must listen (read).To read my reviews visit: www.saturdaynitereader.com
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  • Ellie
    January 1, 1970
    Kiese Laymon is unsparing in his reveal of himself, his struggles and those of America, the damage white America does and continues to do to black people. Heavy refers to many burdens: the burden of Laymon's body which he tries to starve away, the heaviness of the lies we tell ourselves and our children, but more specifically the burden that her been placed on black people just to stay alive, physically, in this society, let alone professionally and emotionally where as Laymon's mother says exce Kiese Laymon is unsparing in his reveal of himself, his struggles and those of America, the damage white America does and continues to do to black people. Heavy refers to many burdens: the burden of Laymon's body which he tries to starve away, the heaviness of the lies we tell ourselves and our children, but more specifically the burden that her been placed on black people just to stay alive, physically, in this society, let alone professionally and emotionally where as Laymon's mother says excellence is required just to survive and where black people not only have to lose to satisfy white people but to lose in specific ways.I love what he says about rereading, that it's the readers version of revision. It made me feel guilty for how little I do it when I agree it's the only real way to appreciate a serious book. Or any book we feel called to by.This is an intense and honest book and one everyone should read.
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