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4.47  ·  Rating details ·  33,171 ratings  ·  4,416 reviews
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
Hardcover, 241 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by Scribner
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Wanda I don't think she sexually abused him, but I think she not only looked at him as her son, but also as the man in her life, and it really blurred lines…moreI don't think she sexually abused him, but I think she not only looked at him as her son, but also as the man in her life, and it really blurred lines and confused him. (less)
Monic In my family, we often pronounce it "noun." I think Laymon defines it pretty well in the chapter where he and his mama notice her returned check at th…moreIn my family, we often pronounce it "noun." I think Laymon defines it pretty well in the chapter where he and his mama notice her returned check at the grocery. It means "not one" or "not any" or "none."(less)

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Average rating 4.47  · 
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Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 Laymon lays himself bare an act of courageous grace is ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I find this memoir near impossible to review for a number of reasons:

the book was near impossible to read for me;
the book is brilliant;
the book is not written for me.

If you only take one thing from my review, let it be this: Kiese Laymon is utterly, utterly brilliant. On a simple sentence by sentence level his writing is absolutely stunning, it wrecked me in the perfection of his prose. But even more so, the structure of this memoir is impeccable and the way he tells his story and makes is po
Diane S ☔
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
"I wanted to write a lie
I wanted that lie to be titillating.
I wrote that lie.
It was titillating.
You would have loved it.
I discovered nothing.
You would have loved it.
I started over and wrote what we hoped I'd forget."

So begins this letter, memoir that Laymon writes for and to his mother. Growing up in Jackson. Mississippi, to a brilliant and difficult to understand mother, he struggles to understand his place in the world, in his family. A house filled with books, and a mother that alternately hu
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, recs
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, language, education, addiction, and so much more. The memoir is divided into four parts, each with four sections, all addressed to Lay ...more
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Grandmother, issues of obesity, anorexia, abuse, trauma, secrets, lies, and
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've struggled with this book - reading it, reviewing it - for a host of reasons. There has been a lot of discussion in Instagram about white people reading black memoirs and adding to the audience of suffering. I haven't participated in the discussion but I have been following it to a small extent.

On Friday, I went to a Beloved Community breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr., with 200 or so people from my community gathering together. The speaker was Wade Davis, an activist who is openly g
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 two salient aspects of his life in Heavy: his com ...more
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heavy is a memoir that reads like the best novels. A work of art that warrants plenty discussion and begs for dissection. A book that is a force for radical honesty, sincerity and reckoning in society. Laymon knows that if society as a whole cannot deal with our personal histories with radical honesty & sincerity then the United States will continue to be the revolving door of denial that it's always been.

His freedom dream is imaginative, utopian, and so difficult to obtain that it might be impo
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 heaviness of the title is made manifest throughout
Elyse  Walters
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read once - Listened once ....both powerful.... as in HOLY EVERYTHING!!!!

.....sad, heart wrenching, URGENT!!!

“Heavy” is appropriately titled:
....heavy childhood, (literally and figuratively), heavy body, heavy abuse, heavy struggles,....
heavy racism, weight obsessions, sexual violence, family violence, American violence, a complicated mother-son relationship, trauma, terror, fear, addiction, secrets, lies, white/black issues, coming of age, disadvantages of ‘coming-of-age, intellectual househo
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 adulthood is devastating. The cruelty that we impose ...more
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been attempting to write a review for this memoir, 'Heavy: An American Memoir' by Kiese Laymon for about a week. I can't explain why I've been having such a difficult time finding the words to describe this book and my feelings about it, especially since I consider it one of the most powerful memoirs I have ever read. Initially, I read a print copy of this book... which I've filled with post-it notes to mark various passages I wanted to return to. After finishing the print copy, I immedia ...more
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of the hardest reviews I've ever attempted to write. Probably because, as my friend Hannah so aptly put it in her own review, this book was not written for me. But that's what was so admirable about it. Kiese Laymon states clearly in the prologue to his memoir that he has no intention of writing a sanitized, palatable version of events; it's almost painful in its honesty but it's for this reason that I think this book is so crucial and necessary (especially for non-black readers).

Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2019
“Heavy” is a……well, a very heavy memoir.

Kiese Laymon recounts his life growing up in a dysfunctional home as the heavyset black son of an exacting and troubled single mother in a Jackson, Mississippi. His mother is highly educated and demands excellence from her only son. She also has a heavy hand, and regularly beats Kiese when she feels he is not “striving for excellence, education and accountability when excellence, education and accountability were requirements for keeping the insides of bla
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
i read this in three days and i am a slow reader. i am a bit shell-shocked. i feel i've been thrown into the spin cycle of the washing machine i don't have and kept there for 72 hours. i also feel tremendously humbled. i cannot say anything about this book because i'm not black and i'm not american. but i'm trying to learn, and i hope to have learned at least a fraction of what kiese laymon is offering in this incredible memoir. ...more
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
Now Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction - well-deserved!!
Kiese Laymon writes about his life growing up as a black man in Mississippi and how racism and violence result in lies and addiction - lies to oneself and all loved ones because the truth is too painfully overwhelming and the perceived feeling of defeat too shameful, addiction because it promises some degree of comfort (over-eating and drugs), control (starving), or freedom by surrender (gambling). Laymon's writing is dark, intens
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
WOW, what a book! How do you call something so heartbreaking BRILLIANT? The writing is stunning, the vulernability on display is breathtaking and the delivery is masterful. There were times that I forgot I was reading a memoir because it reads like the perfect novel. ⁣

Kiese Laymon delves into many “heavy” topics -- the struggle of living life as a man in a black body, his weight, abuse, sex, racism, gambling, education, friendships & family dynamics. I don't think there was a topic that was not
Traci Thomas
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is amazing. Direct. Vulnerable. So super smart. It is vast in all the thing it discusses and intersectional. Race. Gender. Addiction. Body. Blackness. This book is major. Memoir at its best.

REREAD: still incredible. Still blown away by his writing. I listened this time through and his rhythm and style are even more clear in listening to the book. I found more humor and more fullness in listening. I liked reading it more because it felt more intimate but listening helped to fill out the
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
[4+] Kiese Laymon writes about his experiences with such immediacy that I felt as if I knew him when he was 9, 10, 16, 18, 21, 30 etc. There is no distance, he is living it on the pages. He shares the heaviness of his complicated relationship with his mother, his body, the white world around him in a way both sorrowful and graceful. I hope there is more to come from him. The audiobook was powerfully read by the author.
Michael Finocchiaro
As the title implies, Kiese Laymon's Heavy is not a light read. He describes his abusive childhood and troubled growing up in poetically and in emotionally charged terms. There are excellent points made about racism and feminism amid the violence and despair. I am glad that Kiese survived the many trials and tribulations to make this exceptional memoir.
Recommended article about this book: https://www.npr.org/2018/10/17/657824...
"I wanted to write a lie. You wanted to read a lie. I wrote this to you instead because I am your child, and you are mine. You are also my mother and I am your son. Please do not be mad at me, Mamma. I am just trying to put you where I bend. I am just trying to put us where we bend."

Mother's Response:These Are Your Memories

Typically when I read a memoir I am trying to see through the other person's eyes, attempting to understand how their past bought them to where they are now. At times I strug
WHAT IN THE WORLD. I am truly not (yet? ever?) ready to say anything smart about this one. Heavy is the sort of memoir that you don't feel "done" with, even after reaching the last page, and it strips away the notion that you will find words anywhere close to as precise as the author's.

For me, there are few books that get difficult, dependent parent-child relationships so RIGHT that every other paragraph has my jaw on the floor. I felt this way last year with A Place for Us, another book that i
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I had seen Laymon at a reading a while ago, not having read his book. He was funny and eloquent, but then, to be honest, some other book caught my eye, and I forgot all about Heavy. My fellow bookworms will understand;-) I am glad, however, that I finally did pick it up. I am not usually a fan of essays or short stories, but Laymon has a very engaging, almost narrative style and though some of his essays spoke to me more than others, it was a very readable collection, highlighting aspects of the ...more
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, audio, memoirs
Though I read this in May (actually I listened to it, read by the author in a voice that is perfection), I am realizing as I prepare my 2019 Year in Review that I never wrote a review for this moving memoir. I will make it a goal to listen to this again in 2020 and properly review it. It was a stand out and the best memoir I read all year.
Oct 23, 2019 rated it liked it
I appreciate the raw honesty Kiese Laymon wrote with in Heavy: An American Memoir. This book is dark and intense, delving into difficult relationships Kiese has with family, with himself, and with others. Trauma and lies are rampant yet so is Kiese’s authenticity. His ability to rise above the challenging circumstances he is faced with time and time again was admirable. Heavy confirms Kiese’s clear talent as a writer.
Jul 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
"Heavy" is one of those multilayered titles that once you've read the book, you look back on and think, ah. I see what you did there. A play on the author's physical body, traumatic life experiences, and the psychic toll of being a Black man in America, "Heavy" is a difficult but rewarding memoir to read. I think the decision to frame his story as an address to the mother with whom he has a complicated relationship makes this particularly special. This is both thought provoking and a great examp ...more
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kiese Laymon knows the debilitating effects of being overweight, and the never-ending battle of diets and exercise to lose the extra pounds. But, for much of this memoir, he is a very heavy man. It causes him to be shy and insecure.

Then there is the heavy expectations his mother has for him to achieve excellence and a fine education. She insists that he read books—lots of books, and write about them. She beat him regularly when he fell short of her expectations. And he did fall short—often delib
Apr 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Secrets can be heavy,. Secrets carry consequences for the body, the mind, the soul. The better memoirs are willing to unburden, willing to make sense of it on the page.

You turn the page in a great memoir and feel as if you see the writer more clearly, as if you've walked with the writer and also made sense of some personal, yet deeply universal challenge.

I truly enjoyed reading this memoir, enjoyed making sense of this intense and complex familial relationship, enjoyed the layered art on the p
Dec 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
I don't hate to be the skunk in this party where everyone seems to believe this is a great book. It is not! This is Ta nehisi coates 2.0. America is going through a period of victim-hood and self flagellation that will only result in the evisceration of the experiment that Abraham Lincoln called a government 'of the people, by the people and for the people.' Which goes back to a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin when he was asked what kind of government the founders had created: "A Republic ...more
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wrote this book to you because, even though we harmed each other as American parents and children tend to do, you did everything you could to make sure the nation and our state did not harm their most vulnerable children." -Kiese Laymon

Heavy is a powerful memoir written by a black son to his mother. It's in essence a story about the challenges of being a black man in America, about the pressures one experiences even at the height of what society calls "success". Laymon's consistent reference
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Kiese Laymon is a black southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University before graduating from Oberlin College. He earned an MFA from Indiana University and is the author of the forthcoming novel, Long Division in June 2013 and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America in August 2013. Laymon is ...more

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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.” 70 likes
“For the first time in my life, I realized telling the truth was way different from finding the truth, and finding the truth had everything to do with revisiting and rearranging words. Revisiting and rearranging words didn't only require vocabulary; it required will, and maybe courage. Revised word patterns were revised thought patterns. Revised thought patterns shaped memory. I knew, looking at all those words, that memories were there, I just had to rearrange, add, subtract, sit, and sift until I found a way to free the memory.” 46 likes
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