A challenging memoir about black-white relations, income inequality, mother-son dynamics, Mississippi byways, lack of personal self-control, education from kindergarten through graduate school, and so much more.
I have dog-eared too many pages to close my copy of Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir. I found something noteworthy on almost every page ... This is a memoir to read and reread, as Laymon recommends readers do with all books of significance ... Dear white people, please read this memoir. Dear America, please read this book. Kiese Laymon is a star in the American literary firmament, with a voice that is courageous, honest, loving, and singularly beautiful. Heavy is at once a paean to the Deep South, a condemnation of our fat-averse culture, and a brilliantly rendered memoir of growing up black, and bookish, and entangled in a family that is as challenging as it is grounding.
The idea of excellence is a wire, sometimes barbed, often electrified, strung through nearly every page of Kiese Laymon’s memoir, Heavy ... 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 ... 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 ... as Laymon’s excellent memoir suggests, a refusal to ask and answer difficult questions about ourselves and the people we love can be lethal.
Laymon examines the many obstacles to honesty and how they infect both public and private life. He weaves a rich...colloquial self-interrogation in the service of a larger interrogation of the country he lives in. It takes in how deeply and variously his body has been marked by shame and trauma, by sexual and physical abuse, by the compulsive soothings and punishings of food and starvation and obsessive exercise, his anorexia often invisible to others because of their inability to see a tall black man as in any way vulnerable ... Time bends and stretches as slow, detailed scenes are followed by delicate slips into an incantatory future tense, conveying a predictive cycle of complicity and hurt.