Heavy : An American Memoir

4.48 (34,002 ratings by Goodreads)
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4.48 (34,002 ratings by Goodreads)

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'So beautifully written, so insightful, so thoughtful, so honest, so vulnerable, so intimate ... A gift' JESMYN WARD
'Wow. Just wow' ROXANE GAY
'Unflinchingly honest' RENI EDDO-LODGE
'An act of truth-telling unlike any other I can think of' ALEXANDER CHEE

The story of the black male experience in America you've never read before

Kiese Laymon grew 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.

In Heavy, by attempting to name secrets and lies that 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 love responsibly, 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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Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 135 x 216 x 27mm | 380g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 9781526605757
  • 380,359

Review Text

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

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 Heavy is an act of truth telling unlike any other I can think of in American literature, partly due to Laymon's uniquely gifted mind-his ability to pursue the ways we lie to each other while also loving each other, or, not, and the humility he brings to bear while doing so, this consistently brings us back to life, to what matters in this world. Heavy is a gift to us, if we can pick it up-a moral exercise and an intimate history that is at the same time a story about America -- Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel Gorgeous ... This reckoning with trauma, terror, fear, sexual violence, abuse, addiction, family, secrets, lies, truth, and the weight of the nation and his body would be affecting in less capable hands, but with Kiese at the helm it is nothing short of a modern classic. These sentences that he so painstakingly crafted are some the most arresting ever printed in the English language -- Mychal Denzel Smith, New York Times bestselling author of 'Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching' 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 intersectional feminism, Heavy is a triumph. I stand in solidarity with this book, and with its writer -- Lacy Johnson, author of The Other Side and The Reckonings Heavy heaves, sings, hums, and runs all night to make it clear that there's an alternative, that Black history's first premise is mutuality. That mutuality isn't perfect, ain't safe, it's dangerous, in fact, and Heavy moves in a terrible and beautiful and so gentle proximity to that--at crucial times our primary--danger, the ones we love and who love us the most. I was with Kiese the whole damn heavy-floating way, word for word in laughter and tears, in recognition, refraction and revelation. But, way more than any of those, sentence by sentence, I was with Kiese in thanks -- Ed Pavlic, author of Another Kind of Madness How appropriate Kiese Laymon's stunning memoir is titled, Heavy. Not only are the stains and hurt highlighted here, heavy, but also the writer's capacity to revive graveyards of ghosts who haunt and seemingly will continue to haunt the protagonist. Laymon is a fearless writer, our writer, who's willing to expose and explore his most vulnerable interiors so that we might get closer to our truths. This is a southern book for backroads and cornbread, for Cadillacs and collard greens, for big mamas and moonshine. Heavy is full of our beautiful and ugly histories, and a declaration of how we might seek redemption. The colorful and complicated characters here speak a blues and poetry that is both nostalgic and familiar. This is the book we need right now. We should all be thankful for this ultramodern weighty testament of heartache, catharsis, and utter brilliance -- Derrick Harriell, author of Stripper in Wonderland and Ropes You do not just read Kiese Laymon's work. It does a reading of you too-one that unburies the stories you thought you would never be able to tell truthfully, and reminds you of your voice to tell them. Heavy marks this quality in its highest definition yet. Written with as much devastating poignance as a humor only the Black South could inspire, Heavy asks readers not just to observe Laymon's courageous journey to understand even the most frightening complexities of life in an anti-Black, sexist, fatphobic society, but to embark on it with him. In doing so, Laymon's gorgeous wordsmithing moves us beyond simple binaries of pleasure and pain, joy and trauma, toward a deeper love for communities too often flattened into one dimension. Heavy is a book for the ages -- Hari Zyad, author of Black Boy Out of Time Kiese Laymon is our most important urgent fiercest voice. To read Kiese Laymon is to be in awe -- Junot Diaz, author of 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' A challenging, perceptive, powerhouse of a read * Monocle *
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About Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing and English at the University of Mississippi, Laymon is the author of the novel Long Division and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. His third book, Heavy, was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Non-Fictionand and was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence. He lives in Mississippi.
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Rating details

34,002 ratings
4.48 out of 5 stars
5 61% (20,596)
4 30% (10,150)
3 7% (2,485)
2 2% (523)
1 1% (248)
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