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Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
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Heavy: An American Memoir (edition 2018)

by Kiese Laymon (Author)

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4642438,357 (4.42)30
"Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about the physical manifestations of violence, grief, trauma, and abuse on his own body. He writes of his own eating disorder and gambling addiction as well as similar issues that run throughout his family. Through self-exploration, storytelling, and honest conversation with family and friends, Heavy seeks to bring what has been hidden into the light and to reckon with all of its myriad sources, from the most intimate--a mother-child relationship--to the most universal--a society that has undervalued and abused black bodies for centuries"--… (more)
Member:redwritinghood38
Title:Heavy: An American Memoir
Authors:Kiese Laymon (Author)
Info:Scribner (2018), Edition: First Edition, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:to-read

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Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
I read the first half of this book in the print version, but finished it with the audio. Definitely recommend the audio if that kind of format works for you. The lyrical nature of Laymon's writing is much more evident when it's read to you by the author... it takes on a spoken word poetry feeling with the audio version.

As for the content - I loved this book. Deeply. I reserve 5 stars for books I want to read again and again, but I don't know if I could handle another read because of the emotional response I had to the content.

Beautifully written, regardless. ( )
  Jessica_Olin | Sep 17, 2020 |
This is definitely a raw, powerful, emotional memoir. But its not written for me. Its not written for you. Its not written for any ONE person -- OTHER THAN -- Kiese's mother. Thats who this is written for.

It's definitely a story that will stick with you. In its complexity, and the way Laymon writes it. Its wonderfully written, and done with such style, and its written showing his true depth of emotion and the power behind his words.

But sadly, I keep feeling like its all lacking something. And I think its who he wrote it for. We don't get a name to his mother, we really don't get a face to his mother, and sadly, at the end, we don't get him coming to real grips with his mother.

She has damaged him from day one. And he knows this. But he only eludes to it, only beats around the bush, and is vague and pushing it away and around and not getting right down into it all. Like he knows the truth but doesn't want to fully speak it. The ending is also not a true ending, and thats a good thing, as well as a bad thing.

If theres any one thing I have come to learn about people, is that we don't just suddenly 'get better' or have amazing 'downward spirals' that someone can watch and react to. Its slow steps down and slow steps up with fall backs and progressions/regressions. You don't just hit rock bottom, you hit a couple of ledges along the way down. You also don't have a meteoric rise to the top. You don't say "I won't gamble anymore" and quit gambling. This isn't how it works. You can say it, and do it... for a little while. But then there's inevitably a setback, and then you might get better from that setback, or you might get worse.

So in that, with the ending, he is faithful. But, its also just an ending thats left ambiguous and kind of an "ending" because we reached the time that it needs to be an ending (ie. the current date). There's no true coming to terms and grips and recriminations for his mother and all of his and her actions.

He's obviously a very deep and intelligent man. But he never actually fully breaks down the ramifications of all that his mother does. He kind of does some talk here and there, but never a full "this is X and I know its X and that means X", its never how and why or what she did caused me to be like this or like that.

He's growing up in the South - Mississippi - during the 80s/90s/2000s. His mother grew up in the same area in the 60s/70s/80s, and his Grandmama grew up in the same area in the 50s/60s/70s. Its obviously a racial tense area and timeframe. BUT... he doesn't also see how his mother sets him up basically to have all of these problems throughout his life. Maybe its my own perspective being applied to his work? Or maybe he doesn't see it?

But his mother basically militarizes him from Day 1 against White People. And I capitalize that because 'They' are a definitive term and a definitive group, and basically an enemy throughout his life/memoir. And sadly, I don't think he ever sees it as anything other than that, and that this group could be anything other than that. Like he doesn't fully realize maybe, maybe, just maybe, not being antagonistic to White People all the time will HELP him in some ways. That maybe not all White People are the enemy/devil/evil. Maybe that they could help him. Or maybe that his mother's approach, Malachi Hunter's approach, or even his own approach, to White People, are actually HURTING him, rather than helping him, or preparing him, or safe-guarding him.

So I wish he did some more of reflecting, than just kind of platitude style things about toxic masculinity, feminism, black culture, surviving the South, and how White People are. He does talk about how this impacts him, but he never breaks it down to the atom level, which I think once he would do so, he could see the patterns better than just saying he saw the patterns. Because he lets us know he SEES the patterns, but doesn't fully express THE PATTERNS. If that makes any sense.


Also on a note of his gambling addiction, it was interesting to read and see the perspective that I see all the time. And ironically I was finishing the novel up and (primarily that section) while sitting on my breaks in a casino (working as a Table Games dealer). And this is something I see practically day in and day out at the casino. The 10$ last gasp. The ATM runs that occur over and over and over. ( )
  BenKline | Jul 1, 2020 |
Over recent weeks, there have been a number of Black Lives Matter reading lists on the internet for those wanting to educate themselves on how people of colour are treated in the world. Heavy by Kiese Laymon appealed to me, and I was able to find a copy locally. It’s an excellent memoir of Laymon’s life from childhood to adulthood, growing up in Mississippi and his relationship with his mother, weight and gambling. It’s brutally raw, honest and unflinching.

Written to his mother, Laymon starts out that he did not want to write Heavy as is. He wanted to write a lie, an American memoir, that ‘pandered and lied’. Instead, he wrote the truth. That truth is frequently shocking but he doesn’t shy from it. He discusses sexual violence amongst his neighbours and friends. Laymon discusses living with his mother, a brilliant woman academically who beats him. She fears that he will not be safe, a tall black child then man, in a white man’s world. He describes being poor, having to make choices between food and electricity. Laymon discusses his weight, from binge eating to eating little and exercising to the point of damage to his body. He expresses his relationship with the casino, being up and down with free food and hotel rooms just to keep him betting. The story is shocking, confronting and sad. A mother worried about her son running at night in case he’s picked up by the police and worries about his smart mouth saying or writing something that will antagonise those in power. Which happens. Which gets Kiese in trouble for expressing his opinions. Which wouldn’t happen if he was white.

Heavy really gets into how it is to be a black man in America. From the subtle injustices (why is it so wrong for a black boy to peel a grapefruit with a butter knife?) to the obvious, blatant ones (being asked to undergo a lie detector test without evidence), Heavy is not just about physical weight, but the weight attached to being black in America, followed with suspicious. It’s also a story of love for his family and friends. It’s not a story that panders to the dominant white narrative, but is written for black people (not about them).

I can’t adequately explain how powerful this memoir is. I took several breaks from reading it to digest what was happening. It is brilliantly written with honesty and love. Just read it. You won’t be disappointed.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Jun 26, 2020 |
I purchased Heavy quite a while ago but had not taken the opportunity to read it yet. During the protests seeking justice and an end to systematic racism more books about race were recommended. Since we're in a dual time of protest and pandemic I've had lots of time for long walks and introspection. I borrowed the audio version of Heavy and listened to Kiese read his words. It was powerful.

Kiese is raised by his demanding and loving mother in Jackson, Mississippi. She is an unconventional college professor and is determined that her son live up to his potential. He becomes a talented writer and college professor at Vassar College. But it's not an easy journey. His life is filled with struggles with racism, an addiction to weight loss, gambling and a failure to sustain a loving relationship with himself.

I was particularly moved by the last chapter as he outlines potentials for Blacks in America. The long term future can be promising or it could be devastating. ( )
  Nancyjcbs | Jun 23, 2020 |
I couldn't put this down. Kiese is an absolutely beautiful, unique writer. I was hooked on his deep-south black perspective and the brutal, naked, and emotional honesty of his story. While there's countless injustices pushing down on his family, he's equally blunt about the grey area that everyone in his life lives in: there are no good or bad people, only the good and bad things people do. I've also got to say, this book really opened my eyes about poverty among academics. ( )
  mitchtroutman | Jun 14, 2020 |
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"Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about the physical manifestations of violence, grief, trauma, and abuse on his own body. He writes of his own eating disorder and gambling addiction as well as similar issues that run throughout his family. Through self-exploration, storytelling, and honest conversation with family and friends, Heavy seeks to bring what has been hidden into the light and to reckon with all of its myriad sources, from the most intimate--a mother-child relationship--to the most universal--a society that has undervalued and abused black bodies for centuries"--

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