“"I wanted to write a lie," Kiese Laymon says in the opening pages of his brutal, beautiful memoir, Heavy. The book is written in the second person, addressed to his mother, with whom Laymon shares a turbulent, intimate relationship. She feeds his mind with books, but critiques the way Laymon feeds his body as he struggles with his weight. She is his best friend, yet demands excellence through regular beatings. And yet, Laymon's complicated love for his mother is absolute. It is palpable in his voice as he reads the words he wrote for his mother, as he tells you his story of being a black boy, a black man, in Mississippi and America. This is a book that will knock you flat on your back. This is a book that will make you sob in the grocery store. Laymon had me captivated from the very first word he spoke. It was a privilege to listen.”
Maggie, Square Books
*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*
In this powerful, provocative, and universally lauded memoir—winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal and finalist for the Kirkus Prize—genre-bending essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon “provocatively meditates on his trauma growing up as a black man, and in turn crafts an essential polemic against American moral rot” (Entertainment Weekly).
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 time in New York as a college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. Heavy is a “gorgeous, gutting…generous” (The New York Times) memoir that combines personal stories with piercing intellect to reflect both on the strife of American society and on Laymon’s experiences with abuse. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, he asks 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 book for people who appreciated Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family through years of haunting implosions and long reverberations. “You won’t be able to put [this memoir] down…It is packed with reminders of how black dreams get skewed and deferred, yet are also pregnant with the possibility that a kind of redemption may lie in intimate grappling with black realities” (The Atlantic).