28 Days of Literary Blackness With VSB | Day 17: Heavy by Kiese Laymon

Illustration for article titled 28 Days of Literary Blackness With VSB | Day 17: Heavy by Kiese Laymon
Image: Heavy (Simon & Schuster

Publisher Synopsis: In Heavy, (Kiese) 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 twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations.

Heavy is a book I bought the day it came out. I was anticipating its release like I was waiting for a new Outkast album to drop in 1998 and it didn’t disappoint. It’s up for or has won damn near every award possible, even winning an award for best audiobook, something I didn’t know even existed. Rumble, young man, rumble.

The book’s title couldn’t be more fitting. Laymon spends the entire book, which is heavy in tone and subject matter with discussions of his own weight struggles, both good and bad. We read this book for our VSB/Mahogany Books Book Club and I remember everybody having a similar thought about one thing in particular: what does his mama think about this book? The book delves so heavily into (likely until the book’s release) untold secrets and their family struggles that you might need to put it down a few times on your way to finishing it.

I felt many similarities to my own life, or at least I recognized many of the characters in his life and in the book, since it’s largely a southern narrative. Kiese is a thinker and one who is gifted enough to be a clear and relatable writer about life and circumstance as well. Heavy is what happens when those two gifts come together as basically a letter to his mother. Obviously, his other works are worth reading as well, he’s that kind of writer. But Heavy is everything its billed to be.


Heavy (2018) by Kiese Laymon

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.