Books

Heavy

In this memoir, 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

Kiese Laymon is a fearless writer. In his essays, personal stories combine with piercing intellect to reflect both on the state of American society and on his experiences with abuse, which conjure conflicted feelings of shame, joy, confusion and humiliation. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of growing up in a nation wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we've been.

In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed Black son to a complicated and brilliant Black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship and family that begins with a confusing childhood — and continues through 25 years of haunting implosions and long reverberations. (From Simon & Schuster)

From the book

I did not want to write to you. I wanted to write a lie. I did not want to write honestly about black lies, black thighs, black loves, black laughs, black foods, black addictions, black stretch marks, black dollars, black words, black abuses, black blues, black belly buttons, black wins, black beens, black bends, black consent, black parents, or black children. I did not want to write about us. I wanted to write an American memoir.

I wanted to write a lie.

I wanted to do that old black work of pandering and lying to folk who pay us to pander and lie to them every day. I wanted to write about our families' relationships to simple carbohydrates, deep-fried meats, and high-fructose corn syrup. I wanted the book to begin with my weighing 319 pounds and end with my weighing 165 pounds. I wanted to pepper the book with acerbic warnings to us fat black folk in the Deep South and saccharine sentimental exhortations from Grandmama. I did not want you to laugh.

I wanted to write a lie.


From Been in Heavy by Kiese Laymon ©2018. Published by Simon & Schuster.

Interviews

Kiese Laymon is a black college professor at upstate New York's prestigious Vassar College. His on-campus experience has taught him a lesson in race relations. When harassed by security guards, he can always flash his Faculty ID to make everything OK. 25:00

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