Heavy

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

An amazing memoir. It approaches disordered eating from a black male perspective, which is very rare, as well as having powerful social commentary. I plan to reread this, which is something I hardly ever do.
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Heavy was a very great read. As a person who grew up in the South, I relate to the stories of Laymon growing up in Mississippi. Such a fantastic memoir.
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Heavy is the right word for this. I feel the weight of it, and I feel shame because I haven't felt it or known it for every second I've been alive.

Powerful is another word for this. It changed me and changed my worldview.

Thank you, Kiese Laymon, for your words. I appreciate the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read the ARC.
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Gripping writing from Kiese Laymon about his lived experiences. This should be required reading in America today.
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This one took me a while - the topic is indeed heavy and parts were difficult to read because of the subject matter. It is written almost as a letter to "you" - Laymon's mother - as he discusses his childhood and wrestles with ideas about abuse, masculinity, sexuality, addiction, and weight. The raw honesty is breathtaking and beautiful. Watching as the story unfolded felt like an unbelievable honor. I also recommend his essays, which are linked on his website. There you can also find a letter of response from his mother, which is brave and wrenching as well.
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Heavy is an absolutely devastating memoir of race, family, domestic abuse, addiction, academia, and social justice. Laymon is unsentimental. His commitment to telling his story is evident and it is not a redemption story. It feels cathartic but it is not a feelgood story.

Laymon tells his story form his childhood in Mississippi through his job at Vassar. Written as a letter to his mother, Laymon narrates his trauma, self-destruction and triumph, His friends influence him in positive and destructive ways as Laymon confronts the monstrosity of racism and racial injustice. A stylistic masterpiece, the story weaves in an out of Laymon's life, ultimately coming to a botched reconciliation with his mother.

This memoir is recommended to everyone who is prepared to confront important feelings. More specifically, it is relevant to contemporary discussion of family, race, trauma, and abuse in America. I am a better person for having read it.
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"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

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 struggle with not being judgmental of their choices.  I am more mature now.  I recognize that life is always viewed better from afar, through hindsight.  That growth notwithstanding, Heavy is an honest account that exposes not only the author's vulnerabilities but the reader's as well.  
" I share with painters the desire to put a three-dimensional picture on a one-dimensional surface."
I found myself not as an outsider looking in but felt as if I had been dropped into the fray and was experiencing the book up close.  As a black academic I couldn't help but read Layman's words and hear the echo of my own sons' voices.  I wondered how many times while I was in the lab that my children felt unsafe.  How many times did I think they were tucked safely away that they could have possibly been exposed to sexual violence?  How many secrets have they kept for fear of hurting me.  I was scared to ponder about when my love may have caused them pain.  Layman lays his life bare before us with all of its ugly truths.  In his eloquent rendering he is not a martyr nor his mother a monster.  They are two people who love each other deeply, imperfectly.
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An incredible, brave, destructive, and insightful masterwork I'll read again and again. Upon reading the first chapter, I had to put this down for a month just to realign my brain to what Laymon gave in these pages. Comparisons to Baldwin are easy these days, but Heavy put me in the mindset of the first time I read Giovanni's Room, The Fire Next Time, and Beale Street. That it was all so personal, and that so much hit so very close to home, that the open-letter style was so in-your face and real-time made the wounds so fresh, the healing still so very far away.
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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 truth was intense, brave, and emotionally raw and wrenching. A huge thank you to Laymon for his willingness to so honestly bare his pain and his heart, and for doing so with such exquisite and eloquent writing. This is a book I won’t soon forget and I highly recommend it.

My review was posted on Goodreads on 11/8/18.
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Kiese Laymon is a master of words. I suppose he loves them but I think it is deeper than that since it looks like they are such a part of his beautiful self that for him to say he loves words would be to break a piece of himself off as a separate object to be the recipient of love. Sort of like trying to diagram a sentence that only has one word.

OK, the above didn’t say what I wanted it to say, and that is one of the many differences between him and me, this guy can WRITE! However that is part of the magic of HEAVY, in that how could I be so moved and experience such emotional mindstorms when we started out and lived in such different places? But when I was reading his book I felt I was living his life and DAMN when you finish it you feel you have been through something. I can’t explain it, but he sure did. In essence reading HEAVY is a Catharsis. And I was wrung out by the end.

Oh I guess we can say this is a book about growing up as a black man in America, and yeah it has that. But it is so personal that while it is all about that story it is also about this one unique individual and that draws you in at a personal level and I guess from there we see the broad social stuff.

I am not in the same ballpark intellectually or artistically as Kiese Laymon. Hell I’m not even in the same league or sport as him. So don’t expect me, a middle aged white dude, to comment on what being a black man in America is about. I may not be as smart as some but I am smart enough to not comment where I shouldn’t commenting. But here is the thing, in HEAVY we are let into the mind of Kiese Laymon and it is a powerful and a RAW experience, and man you come out of it wanting to say something. But what can one say?

All I can say is “Just read the damn book”.
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Give Kiese Laymon all the book awards. Every one of them. Everyone else has already used all the adjectives -- powerful, raw, brilliant writing.
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I honestly don’t think I can eloquently write a review to say how amazing this book is. I finished it over the course of a week because I had to write down so many thought-provoking quotes. I also feel the need to buy a physical copy so that I can physically highlight and underline each phrase that jumped out at me. 

I feel honored to have read this HEAVY book and hope to one day read more by this author.
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I hope one day this book becomes a classic. It is just that good. Engrossing and beautifully written with honesty. This book at times is hard to read, not in the bad sense  just what this young man went through. I applaud the author for blessing us with this work. A must read. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the ARC of this book. Although I received the book in this manner, it did not affect my opinion of this book nor my review.
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This book is getting a lot of hype that is mostly justified. The relations between son and mom is so complex. At times, I found the narrative hard to follow, and couldn't tell how much was exaggerated versus legitimate.
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I have never heard of Kiese Laymon until I read all the buzz about his memoir Heavy. 

Laymon shares with us his experience growing up poor and black in Jackson, Mississippi from  being molested by his babysitter; witnessing Layla (a girl he liked) made to go into a bedroom with three "big boys". ( you already know what went down); complex relationship with his mother; his battle with gambling and how he inflicted self-harm(overeating, starving and working out several hours a day so he can as he puts it “disappear”)

This powerful coming-of-age story speaks of race, class, politics and family. So many layers to his story, hardest memoir I have read this year. An absolutely must read.
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Heavy by Kiese Laymon is such a unique book from such a unique voice.  Heavy is a memoir but addressed as if Laymon is speaking to his mother and telling her his story.  His true story. Laymon and his mom have a complicated relationship. At times loving, at times using and abusing, at times supportive and at other times the exact opposite of supportive. Laymon explores his relationship with his mother in this book but he also addresses his grandmother and more importantly himself.  Laymon explores his complicated relationship with his body. He alternates between obesity as a child to anorexia as a man. He both loves and hates his body.  Life is complicated for a young black male growing up in Mississippi.  Heavy seeks to unravel all of the feelings about the pains in his life but most importantly address the pain between him and his mother.

At one point in the book, Laymon’s grandmother tells him that through the stories she tells her children and grandchildren, she is just trying to ‘put them where I’ve been’.  In Heavy, Laymon is trying to put us all where he has been. He writes with such unapologetic honesty that at times it actually hurts to read his words. His vivid memory of a life filled with so much pain is examined here and left for the reader to decide how they should feel about it.  Near the end of the book, he says that he wanted to write a lie and you wanted to read a lie. He uses the word ‘you’ just as he has throughout the book when he is addressing his mother but this time it feels like the ‘you’ in the sentence is addressed to all of us. Laymon’s unwillingness to write what we would all like to hear or believe is what makes his writing so painful at times but it is also the ingredient that makes his writing so to the point and authentic.

For several years now I have admired Laymon’s writing.  It is reminiscent of Richard Wright. I waited a long time for this book to come out and look forward to reading more of Laymon’s work in the future.  If you want a cozy read, step away from this book quickly. You won’t find cozy or comfortable within these pages. But if you want to read a brilliant wordsmith who is willing to lay bare his heart for the world to read about with unflinching honesty, please read this memoir.  

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this memoir.
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As he states right at the beginning of his memoir, Kiese Laymon could have written a lie. He could have sugarcoated and hidden, forgotten, and omitted. But he didn’t, and I’m so glad he told the real raw truth in Heavy. A word of warning: Heavy is going to rip your heart out more than once, and cause you to start looking at your own life in a different way. We could all tell lies, we all do tell lies… What will happen if we take a page out of Kiese Laymon’s stunning book and start telling our own truths? I hope people realize how much courage and heart it took to write this memoir, and that people take their time to unpeel the layers that are present within the words. I’m still reeling and probably will be for a while. 

Heavy reads like a novel in letter form, a letter to “you”, Kiese Laymon’s mother. It follows Laymon’s life growing up poor and black to a single mother in Jackson, Mississippi, through college and right through his years teaching at Vassar. Heavy is Laymon’s life, but it is also the story of his brilliant and conflicted mother, his amazing grandmother whose drops of wisdom are always perfectly timed, of physical and sexual abuse, and of being determined despite all of the obstacles that were put in his path way before he was even conceived. Heavy is struggle: struggle with weight, struggle with control, with gambling, with finding oneself, the struggles of living in a world created only to benefit white people. I will never understand what it is to grow up as a black man in the US, but Laymon’s memoir provides excellent insight into the unique struggles faced by black men in this country. As I said earlier, Heavy is layers, and you need to appreciate them all to understand the piece of literary excellence that it is. A memoir but also a profound insight into this country and the lies this country tells itself to keep on keeping on. We are all pretty much complicit in these lies, our legacy will rest on what we actually did to make a difference. Laymon has been making his differences for years, are we making ours?

On a personal level, I have always hesitated to write full truths in case I upset people. I know exactly how much courage it took to write Heavy, and how it also must have hurt Laymon’s mother the first time she read it. You can find an absolutely beautiful letter from her on his blog which in my opinion sets the importance of writing the truth no matter what in stone. We all make mistakes, it’s up to us to use them as growth rather than hide behind them. Kiese Laymon has become a huge inspiration to me, and I’m pretty sure Heavy is going to continue to inspire and impact me for years to come. 

This review doesn’t do Heavy enough justice. All I can say is that you need to read it. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy. Thanks to Kiese Laymon for putting so much of yourself into your beautiful writing.
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Absolutely amazing. I love the way in which this is written and broken down into essays. A memoir that everyone should take the time to read.
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One of the best books I've read this year.  I love a good memoir, and Kiese Laymon's Heavy wildly surpasses that bar.  His honesty and vulnerability (even about wanting to sugar-coat, to distract, to lie) knocks this memoir out of the park.  His experiences encompass issues of racism, family, weight, expectations (and lack thereof) and is not only raw, but also tender and funny.
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By his own admission, Kiese Laymon did not want to write this memoir; he wanted to write a book of lies. Lies about being a black man in America. Lies about his body, gorged and purged to the point of physical breakdown. Lies about his reckless gambling addiction. Lies about his white, teenage girlfriend and black, collegiate love. Lies about his mother; lies to his mother. Lies about promises made, and lies about promises broken.  Kiese Laymon wanted to lie; he wanted to lie about it all. But he told the truth, and what remains is an uncompromisingly honest reflection on black life.

Heavy, as the title suggests, is weighty in its story and composition. Every sentence is an emotional wallop of carefully constructed syllables, and each period serves as an opportunity for the reader to catch their breath. The extreme vulnerability on display is often overwhelming, and in the hands of a lesser writer, could feel exploitative. But Laymon’s mastery of the language keeps him firmly in control of the narrative – and keeps the reader’s eyes on the page. A powerful work reminiscent of those by Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Keise Laymon’s Heavy is a must-read exploration of the personal, political, and racial intersections of America.
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