Kiese Laymon, Heavy: An American Memoir
Heavy: An American Memoir is what I would expect to read from one of my homeboys from Goodson Hall at Benedict College. It is the sitting on the front porch drinking Hennessey before you dip to the club. In this work, Kiese Laymon untethers himself in this provocative book that leaves you wondering was the brother your next-door neighbor.
As one who claims that The Fire Next Time is the best book I ever read, this is the southern version. Where Baldwin would not have a clue of what it means to deal with the country terrain, Laymon does. Baldwin doesn’t write about the southern ancestral resume—the southern, maternal grandmother— like Laymon. Laymon’s story rests in the life of his grandmother. She was the exegesis. Laymon writes, “In Grandmama’s world, most white folk were destined for hell, not because they were white, but because they were fake Christians who really hadn’t really heeded their Bibles. Grandmama really believed only two things could halt white folks’ inevitable trek into hell: appropriate doses of Jesus and immediate immersion in Concord Missionary Baptist Church. I didn’t understand hell, or the devil, but I understood Concord Missionary Baptist Church.”
There are points in this text where Laymon simply mesmerizes with his gift. And, the beauty is that it does not emerge from some inauthentic place but simply the courage to be intrepidly vulnerable. Reading his words often feel as if you are intruding on his personal space. Especially when he writes words like: “…telling the truth was way different from finding the truth…”As he is closing out the book, in the last chapter, he posits some powerful words to his mother who you inevitably have to converse with the entire time you read this book. His mother is the muse, or more like the melody of the book. He is because of her…he is dope because she is dope. He pens these words, “I will tell you that white folk and white power often helped make me feel gross, criminal, angry and scared as a child, but they could never make me feel intellectually incapable because I was your child.”