Heavy: An American Memoir

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In Heavy, an unflinching account of growing up black, obese, and surrounded by violence, Kiese Laymon pursues truth despite its ugliness. Laymon describes his childhood in Jackson, Mississippi, living with an emotionally and physically abusive mother who enforces education by requiring him to write essays as well as spending time with his adoring grandmother who scrapes by with a number of part-time jobs. He also tells of his exposure to sexual violence as a young person, his lifetime battle with weight that involves both gluttony and anorexia, his numerous encounters with racism, his discovery of writing, his pursuit of a career as a college professor in New York, and his destabilizing gambling habit as an adult.

Laymon invites readers into his complicated relationship with his mother by addressing his deeply personal memoir to her directly; unfortunately, his mother remains a kind of shallow enigma through the entire book. However, his straightforward voice is rich with vivid detail that reads like poetry, and his ability to articulate his difficult experiences is unparalleled. The strongest chapter recounts his childhood memories of spending time with his grandmother, accompanying her to the home of a white family she works for and listening to her insist that he is “heavy enough for everything you need to be heavy enough for.” Intimate, bold, and reflective, Heavy is an uncomfortable, but necessary read.


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Author Kiese Laymon
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 256 pages
Publisher Scribner
Publish Date 2018-10-16
ISBN 9781501125652
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue April 2019
Category Biographies & Memoirs
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