Losing a loved one cuts deeply. But if you’re fortunate as I have been in my life, what is left behind is a wealth of beautiful memories. If you haven’t already, please read my review of News Of The World by Paulette Jiles, which was published on December 25, 2020. Separate from the review of the book itself, that blog entry may now be seen as a tribute to a great man and an amazing father, whom I will miss until it is time for him and I to meet again. I am comforted in knowing my father’s journey onward is filled with peace and light.
And now for my review.
The memoir, Heavy, by Kiese Laymon explores complicated, and deeply personal, family dynamics. It also addresses broader issues of racial and gender inequality which plague American society. Mr. Laymon’s intention is not to make one feel at ease. Niceties are not to be found here. He strives for truth in all its ugliness. In all its beauty. He runs and he runs. And in so doing, strips away the weight; a lifetime of confusion, trauma, and pain. We witness through Laymon’s eyes the exploitation of the most vulnerable. We writhe under his accounts of institutionalized racism, within the criminal justice system as well as the halls of academia. We see how the most negative and destructive aspects of American society affect black communities, black families, black children.
The very backbone of Laymon’s story is the tangled relationship that he has with his mother. She is a woman of humble beginnings with extreme intellect and drive. A single-mother who clearly wants the most for her son. Yet she is also the same person who victimizes him, physically and emotionally. How does one reconcile such an individual? How does a son come to terms with a mother who at times can be affectionate and loving, and at others, reckless and abusive? Heavy tackles the very real concept of racial trauma. How deeply it’s embedded. How it is passed down through generations; its effects far-reaching. Laymon’s dogged honesty is painful. But it’s clear there is no other way but to speak one’s truth. We wither under the weight of lies.