Heavy: An American Memoir

Author(s): Kiese Laymon

Biography & Memoir | Anti-Racist Reading List

What does the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies and deception do to a black body, a black family and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse'

In Heavy, Laymon writes 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 career as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, abuse, 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 know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

A defiant yet vulnerable memoir that Laymon started writing when he was eleven, Heavy is an insightful exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship and family.


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So beautifully written, so insightful, so thoughtful, so honest, so vulnerable, so intimate ... A gift -- Jesmyn Ward, TLS Books of the Year

Oh my god. Heavy is astonishing. Difficult. Intense. Layered. Wow. Just wow -- Roxane Gay, author of Hunger

Brilliant and ground-shaking -- Elizabeth Gilbert

Unflinchingly honest -- Reni Eddo-Lodge

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 ... Excellent --New York Times

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

It's a book aching with heart yet proffering no illusions. It's raw and vulnerable and suffused with fiercest seeing. It's masculinity it all its self-consuming threat and secret beauty. Kiese Laymon writes of his mother "You modeled a rugged love.... You demanded that we develop a radical moral intelligence." In Heavy, this singular triumph of writing, he's done the same -- David Chariandy, author of Brother

Tremendous. A searing excavation of trauma and memory that left me stunned. Heavy is a gift and Laymon one of the most important voices around. I cannot stop thinking about it -- Irenosen Okojie

General Fields

  • : 9781526605740
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : September 2018
  • : December 2018
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Kiese Laymon
  • : Paperback
  • : 1811
  • : 813.6
  • : 256