Heavy by Kiese Laymon


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 ...

Details Heavy

Release DateOct 16th, 2018
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Biography, Writing, Essays, Race, Cultural, African American

Reviews Heavy

  • Roxane
    How do you carry the weight of being a black man in America? In electrifying, deliberate prose, Kiese Laymon tries to answer that question from the first page of Heavy: An American Memoir to the last. He writes about what it means to live in a heavy body, in all senses of that word. He writes of family, love, place, trauma, race, desire, grief, rage, addiction, and human weakness, and he does so relentlessly, without apology. To call the way Laym...
  • Michael
    My review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, also can be found on my my blog.Following the author's life from his childhood in Jackson, Mississippi, to his teaching position at Vassar College, Kiese Laymon's memoir considers what it means to grow up Black, male, and heavy in America. Laymon centers Heavy on his close bond with his single mother, and from that viewpoint he writes succinctly about body image, Blackness, masculinity, trauma, ...
  • Thomas
    A brilliant and harrowing memoir about growing up black in America. In a roughly chronological fashion, Kiese Laymon details his coming of age in Mississippi, his college years, and his job as a professor at Vassar College. As a child, he dealt with physical/sexual abuse, and throughout his life he dealt with persistent racism that damaged his body and his relationships. With a consistent overarching focus on structural racism, Laymon hones in on...
  • Tucker
    The last time I read a memoir as powerful and unforgettable as “Heavy” by Kiese Laymon was Roxane Gay’s “Hunger.” So it seems especially appropriate that she would be the one to write the cover blurb for Laymon’s book. “Heavy is astonishing. Difficult. Intense. Layered. Wow. Just wow.”Laymon’s sentences are each finely crafted gems. The deep dive he makes into his history, examining his relationships with his Mother and Grandmot...
  • Jessica Woodbury
    At the very beginning of HEAVY, Laymon writes, "I did not want to write to you. I wanted to write a lie." The "you" is Laymon's mother, and the book is, above all else, about the two of them, written with such openly bared love and fear that it feels like intruding on them to read it. Even the people you know best don't reveal themselves to you this way, and that is, perhaps, some of what Laymon is trying to correct for at least one reader. The h...
  • Andre
    Such an aptly titled memoir because it is indeed heavy, not only speaking about his struggles with weight, but also heavy in the literary and impact sense. It is both heady and the words land with real impact on the reader. Kiese Laymon has given us a brutally honest look into his life and asks us, the readers to bear the weight of his experiences, and that is a challenging request but one well worth the payoff. And that recompense comes in the f...
  • Aleatha
    I've been waiting on this book all year and it didn't disappoint.
  • Monica **can't read fast enough**
    Heavy is overwhelmingly honest, heart wrenching and written in a stunningly beautiful way. Kiese Laymon not only looks into the mirror and sees himself wholly, he reflects all of the ugly injustice and brutality of our culture. Both as American and as African Americans. The long held and brutal belief that as parents of black children you must beat your children and treat them almost cruelly just to keep them safe and enable them to make it to ad...
  • Jade
    As he states right at the beginning of his memoir, Kiese Laymon could have written a lie. He could have sugarcoated and hidden, forgotten, and omitted. But he didn’t, and I’m so glad he told the real raw truth in Heavy. A word of warning: Heavy is going to rip your heart out more than once, and cause you to start looking at your own life in a different way. We could all tell lies, we all do tell lies… What will happen if we take a page out ...
  • YupIReadIt
  • Jan
    Like Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, this memoir uses radical honesty and great skill to transform a complex life with a difficult mother into a heart-wrenching personal story that also illustrates the effects of institutional racism. A challenging and important work.
  • Evelyn
    I inhaled this book! I might change the rating to five stars, but I need to read it two more times to be sure.
  • Kasa Cotugno
    What ever choices or challenges you may be forced to make in life, they are NOTHING compared to what it means to exist as a black man in today's America. The implementation of bodycams spawning outrage while watching the evening news, the helplessness at the tragedy felt at a watching, nightly, as lives are changed forever by impetuousness and unwarranted fear. This is Kiese's own story as he narrates to his mother. His writing is raw, but his ac...
  • Rachel Smalter Hall
    If you like memoirs where the author rips their heart out of their chest and leaves it beating on the floor, great, because we have so much to talk about. Kiese Laymon's new memoir has left me totally speechless, but I'm going to try really hard to make words now so I can tell you how deeply I loved it.Heavy is about a lot of things, including what happens to the body after trauma. From the time he was just a kid in Mississippi, Kiese Laymon has ...
  • kelly
    Whew, ya'll...there's something in my eyes...This is a beautiful book. In it, writer Kiese Laymon describes growing up as a Black man in America, in the deep South of Mississippi. He discusses physical and sexual abuse as a child, the racism of his school and college years, his time as a professor at Vassar College. Within this book are two main subplots: his very complicated relationship with his mother, issues with body image and weight that he...
  • Angelic Sosa
    On page 8, Kiese writes something that his Grandmama told him, "Ain't nothing in the world worse than looking at your children drowning, knowing ain't nothing you can do because you scared that if you get to trying to save them, they might see that you can't swim either..." When I read this line a few days ago, I had to take a photo, post it to my Instagram and exclaim how I felt like I had just been hit in the chest. I thought about my own famil...
  • Mel
    Fabulous, poetic, insightful. I'm glad I read Kiese Laymon's book of essays first because there was at least once event (at college threatening the openly racist students) he referred back to and it was useful to know him first as an intellectual writer sharing truths and then getting to peel back the curtain on his insecurities and learning about how he grew up to be who he is. They work well together and he is so talented... both are worth read...
  • Karee
    The world needed this book a long time ago. Hands down a 5 star read!!
  • Mehrsa
    Powerful memoir about abuse, weight, addiction (but not the usual kind--to food, exercise, and gambling), but mostly about being black and a complicated mother-son relationship.
  • Steve Haruch
    A memoir that reads like a novel, Heavy grapples with racism, abuse, addiction, rape culture, body image and shame — with a kind of radical honesty and radical tenderness that is urgent and necessary. Beautiful and terrifying, and one of the most powerful books I've read in a long time.
  • Richard Noggle
    Laymon's Long Division was a wild, highly-stylized, deeply Southern, African-American time travel/race relations novel that made me swear I'd read anything he wrote thereafter. It was a long wait for a new book, and Heavy isn't what I expected, but it certainly delivers. Addressing the book to his mother (using second-person, a riff on Baldwin's The Fire Next Time), Laymon sets out to lay bare the truth of their relationship, which often seems eq...
  • Anne Meyer
    This is an absolutely brilliant, courageous, honest book. Laymon's voice is brutal and the writing is superb. I wish I could get a copy of this book for all of my students to read.
  • Siobhan
    Holy shit. Speechless. Weeping.
  • Jamal
    Kiese Laid it all down here . Bold ,Bold , Honest and HEAVY . Easy 5 stars here
  • Lacy Johnson
    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 imp...
  • Monet
    I’m reminded of Roxane Gay’s Hunger in the way Laymon unclothes his body and reveals it to us. I can’t think of another book that existed like Hunger and now I can’t think of another book that exists like Heavy. You’ll want to say you read both of these books in their first moments of existing.
  • Laura Hoffman Brauman
    4.5 stars. A raw and powerful read about growing up black in Mississippi, about growing up heavy, about growing up with some amazing women in his life who were both strong and proud and also flawed. So much in this one about secrets, about deciding who you are, and about facing your own demons. Laymon made me pause and think throughout the entire book -- he is an incredible writer and there were many passages that I highlighted as I read it. The ...
  • Cady
    I couldn't look away or put Laymon's devastating memoir down. Laymon's writing is tender, raw, and fierce, ripping through your heart as he explores what it really means to love honestly as a black man who's inherited a legacy of horrific racial violence in the American South.
  • Samuel
    A book I underlined and marked paragraphs on multiple pages, felt through the page, heard, and will read again.