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Heavy : an American memoir
2018
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Summary
*Named a Best Book of 2018 by the New York Times , Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly , Buzzfeed (Nonfiction), The Undefeated, Library Journal (Biography/Memoirs), The Washington Post (Nonfiction), Southern Living (Southern), Entertainment Weekly , and The New York Times Critics *

*WINNER of the Andrew Carnegie Medal and FINALIST for the Kirkus Prize *

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.
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Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Often in his spectacular memoir, Laymon (Long Division, 2013) addresses ""you"": his mother, a scholar and university professor who gave him the ""gifts of reading, rereading, writing, and revision."" Laymon, now a university writing professor himself, recalls the traumas of his Mississippi youth. He captures his confusion at being molested by his babysitter and at witnessing older boys abuse a girl he liked; at having no food in the house despite his mother's brilliance; at being beaten and loved ferociously, often at the same time. His hungry mind and body grow, until, like a flipping switch, at college he's compelled to shrink himself with a punishing combination of diet and exercise. And that's barely the start of his life story thus far, with remembered moments in book-lined rooms and smoky casinos, conversations that leap from the page, the digits on a scale, and scrolling sentences. Laymon applies his book's title to his body and his memories; to his inheritance as a student, a teacher, a writer, an activist, a black man, and his mother's son but also to the weight of truth, and writing it. So artfully crafted, miraculously personal, and continuously disarming, this is, at its essence, powerful writing about the power of writing.--Annie Bostrom Copyright 2018 Booklist
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