Review of Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon

Format: Audiobook narrated by the author.

Heavy is an unveiled, first-person account of a Black male growing up in a single parent family, in poverty, in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1980s. Kiese Laymon is tall and overweight for his twelve years. He’s obsessed with his weight and self conscious. Laymon is supposed to be watched while his mother is at work, but there is no supervision. He deeply empathizes with a young teen girl who is forced into sexual acts by older boys. This helps to shape Laymon’s values.

Laymon’s relationship with his divorced mother is unhealthy for both of them, emotionally and physically as well. His mother is intelligent and holds a doctorate degree, yet it seems she can’t pay the bills and keep food in the house on her teacher’s salary. She insists that Laymon read books and write reports, which usually must contain an element of overcoming White oppression. Laymon is constantly told he must rise up against the White man, and during the highly charged atmosphere of the race riots surrounding the Rodney King beating, both Laymon and the rest of society seem primed to erupt.

There’s so much dysfunction in Laymon’s life it is easier to ask, what’s right with this picture?

This is a difficult book to read, because it is heartbreakingly honest. How many millions of Black youth are trying to survive in those same conditions – or worse – right now?

@ScribnerBooks  @KieseLaymon