is a gorgeous, gutting book that's fueled by candor yet freighted with ambivalence. It's full of devotion and betrayal, euphoria and anguish, tender embraces and rough abuse...the liberation on offer doesn't feel light and unburdened; it feels heavy like the title, and heavy like the truth...Salvation would feel too weightless–as if [Laymon] could forget who he is and where he has been. This generous, searching book explores all the forces that can stop even the most buoyant hopes from ever leaving the ground." –New York Times
"With echoes of Roxane Gay and John Edgar Wideman, Laymon defiantly exposes the 'aches and changes' of growing up black in this raw, cathartic memoir reckoning with his turbulent Mississippi childhood, adolescent obesity, and the white gaze." –O Magazine
] take[s] on the important work of exposing the damage done to America, especially its black population, by the failure to confront the myths, half-truths, and lies at the foundation of the success stories that the nation worships. In the process, Laymon ... dramatize[s] a very different route to victory: the quest to forge a self by speaking hard truths, resisting exploitation, and absorbing with grace the cost of being black in America while struggling to live a life of virtue...You won't be able to put [this memoir] down, but not because [it is] breezy reading. [It is], in Laymon's multilayered word, heavy–packed with reminders of how black dreams get skewed and deferred yet are also pregnant with the possibility that a kind of redemption may lie in intimate grappling with black realities." –The Atlantic
is one of the most important and intense books of the year because of the unyielding, profoundly original and utterly heartbreaking way it addresses and undermines expectations for what exactly it's like to possess and make use of a male black body in America ... the book thunders as an indictment of hope, a condemnation of anyone ever looking forward." –LA Times
"Staggering ... Laymon lays out his life with startling introspection. Heavy
is comforting in its familiarity, yet exacting in its originality ... Laymon subtitled his book, 'An American Memoir, ' and that's more than a grandiose proclamation. He is a son of this nation whose soil is stained with the blood and sweat of his ancestors. In a country both deserving of his love and hate, Laymon is distinctly American. Like the woman who raised him and the woman who raised her, he carries that weight, finding uplift from sorrow and shelter from the storms that batter black bodies." –Boston Globe
"Stunning...Laymon is a gifted wordsmith born and educated in the land of Welty and Faulkner, and his use of language, character and sense of place put Heavy
neatly into the storied Southern Gothic canon. Yet the defining elements of his art – cadence, dialogue, eye for detail, mordant wit – are firmly rooted in the African-American experience. Laymon has created Gothic's not-so-distant black relative...for a book that has the author's disturbing childhood as a metaphor for African-Americans' pursuit of unattained happiness and perhaps unattainable racial freedom, Heavy
is surprisingly light on its feet." –Minneapolis Star-Tribune "Heavy
is a compelling record of American violence and family violence, and the wide, rutted embrace of family love ... Kiese Laymon is a star in the American literary firmament, with a voice that is courageous, honest, loving, and singularly beautiful. Heavy
is at once a paean to the Deep South, a condemnation of our fat-averse culture, and a brilliantly rendered memoir of growing up black, and bookish, and entangled in a family that is as challenging as it is grounding." –NPR.org
"[A] searing, fearless memoir... These haunted pages illuminate how systemic failures give rise to personal traumas, yet all of it is threaded through with complicated, enduring tenderness for the places and people who made Laymon."
–Esquire, 16 of the Most Essential Books on Black History to Read Before, During, and Well After Black History Month
"Staggering ... a heartbreaking narrative on black bodies: how we hurt them, protect them, and try to heal them." –Elle.com, Best Books of 2018
"Weight is both unavoidably corporeal and a load-bearing metaphor in novelist-essayist Kiese Laymon's sharp, (self-)lacerating memoir, addressed to the single teen mom turned professor who raised him to become exceptional...a deeply personal book, where race, class, and the scars of sexual violence are front and center." –New York Magazine
"Laymon's memoir is a reckoning, pulling from his own experience growing up poor and black in Jackson, Mississippi, and tracking the most influential relationships, for better or worse, of his life: with his brilliant but struggling single mother, his loving grandma, his body and the ways he nurtures and punishes it, his education and creativity, and the white privilege that drives the world around him...with shrewd analysis, sharp wit, and great vulnerability – Laymon forces the reader to fully consider the effects of the nation's inability to reconcile its pride and ambition with its shameful history." –Buzzfeed
"This memoir from Kiese Laymon, whose previous books include the novel Long Division
, looks at what it's like to grow up different in the American South. "
–Town & Country
"Laymon revisits the abuse he suffered growing up both black and obese in Mississippi, as well as his complex relationship with his mother. A book for people who appreciated Roxane Gay's memoir Hunger
–Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Laymon examines his relationship with his mother growing up as a black man in the South, exploring how racial violence suffered by both impacts his physical and emotional selves."
"Laymon provocatively meditates on his trauma growing up as a black man, and in turn crafts an essential polemic against American moral rot."
"[Laymon] unleashes his incendiary truth-seeking voice on a memoir that leaves no stone unturned in his examination of a life surrounded by poverty, sexual violence, racism, obesity and gambling. But Heavy
is also about the lies family members tell each other and the heartache of growing up in Mississippi the son of a complicated mother."
–The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Kiese Laymon is one of the most dazzling, inventive, affecting essayists working today, and his memoir lives up to the dizzyingly high expectations set for it. In Heavy
, Laymon explores his tumultuous relationship with his brilliant mother, what it meant to grow up as a fiercely smart, rebellious black man in Mississippi, and his trouble with addiction in various forms. Laymon is fearless in his willingness to go to the darkest, the most tender, the most raw spaces of his life, and of our shared lives in the fragile experiment that is America. His writing will shock and comfort you, make you realize you are not alone, and stun you with its insights about desire, need, and love."
"I don't know any emerging Black writer who hasn't been inspired by the work of Kiese Laymon, whose meditations on Blackness and care are as ubiquitous within this community as is his mentorship and support." –Literary Hub