Meike's Reviews > Heavy: An American Memoir

Heavy by Kiese Laymon
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 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, intense, poetic, angry, desperate, full of resolve, honest and intelligent - this is a great, great book.

Laymon, who is a professor of Creative Writing in the MFA program at the University of Mississippi, was raised by a single mother who pushed him to excellence because she felt like this was the only way to survive the dangers of racism in the Deep South, violently beating her on son when he did not perform as she expected him to while she herself was abused by her boyfriend. This difficult mother-son-relationship is the main vein of the memoir, and Laymon mirrors both characters in their triumphs, fears and shortcomings. Both strive for careers in academia, struggle with institutional racism, have money issues, and keep secrets - and both know and defend the beauty and strength of black culture while also struggling with outside pressures that can, in a perverse and common psychological twist, easily lead to self-punishment. The forces aiming to destruct the black body can evoke defense mechanisms that ultimately serve the status quo - as the first step to stop that dynamic, Laymon calls for more honesty:

"I did not want to write about us. I wanted to write an American memoir. I wanted to write a lie. (...) no one in our family - and very few folk in this nation - has any desire to reckon with the weight of where we've been, which means no one in our family - and very few folk in this nation - wants to be free."

Read this book.
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Reading Progress

December 6, 2018 – Started Reading
December 6, 2018 – Shelved
December 6, 2018 – Shelved as: usa
December 9, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-read
December 9, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Lee (new) - added it

Lee I will! Great review.

Meike Lee wrote: "I will! Great review."

Thank you, Lee! I'd love to hear your thoughts about this book!!

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