Heavy

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by Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon, a genre-bending writer and novelist, investigates what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deceit does to a black body, a black family, and a society on the verge of moral collapse in this stunning and intriguing memoir.

Kiese Laymon is an unafraid author. In his pieces, he weaves personal anecdotes with astute analysis to reflect on the status of American culture as well as his own experiences with abuse, which evoke mixed emotions of guilt, excitement, perplexity, and humiliation. Laymon asks us to contemplate the ramifications of growing up in a country preoccupied with development but uninterested in the unpleasant task of grappling with our past.

Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up as a hard-headed black son in Jackson, Mississippi, to a difficult and bright black mother. Laymon chronicles his complicated connection with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and eventually gambling, from his early memories of sexual assault to his suspension from college to his journey to New York as a young college lecturer. Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this country know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free, by attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding.

Heavy is a defiant yet vulnerable personal narrative that illuminates national failures. It's an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that starts with a perplexing childhood and continues through twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations.

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America seems filled with violent people who like causing people pain but hate when those people tell them that pain hurts.

— Kiese Laymon, Heavy