By Kiese Laymon,

Book cover of Heavy: An American Memoir

Book description

*Named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed (Nonfiction), The Undefeated, Library Journal (Biography/Memoirs), The Washington Post (Nonfiction), Southern Living (Southern), Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times Critics*

In this powerful, provocative, and universally lauded memoir—winner of the Andrew Carnegie…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Heavy as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

As someone who writes about historical embodied practices such as music and dance, I am always interested in how people write about lived experiences in their own bodies.

Though ostensibly a memoir about growing up in Mississippi, Heavy also explores the possibilities and impossibilities of writing. Laymon, nevertheless, gives lightness to his profound narrative with complex, challenging, yet always luminous prose.  

This wildly important book is about what it takes to become a fully realized black man in racist white America. On top of that already monumental struggle are more struggles: anorexia, sexual violence, abuse, obesity, gambling, the construction of identity, and excavating the self and others, to get at the truth. I’d say that this is perhaps one of the best books on trauma that I’ve read. The sentences themselves, the rhythmic syntax of their musicality, is just one emotional heartbeat of this stunning, painfully honest, and vulnerable work of art. 

Heavy is brilliant, poetic, and…really heavy. Laymon writes candidly and gorgeously about growing up Black in the South, struggling with weight, and a legacy of poverty, violence, and racism. Heavy is a personal, heartbreaking dive into American racism and America's deeply problematic weight obsession. The whole book is written as a letter to his mother, a prominent political scientist, and their relationship is incredibly complicated and painful. Heavy reminds us that food writing isn’t always about sweet nostalgia; it can be much darker and more profound.

From Hannah's list on celebrating food.

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