Sometimes the way to cope with reality is with brutal honesty.
Essayist and fiction writer Kiese Laymon does exactly that with social commentary in his writing.
Laymon is a Black writer from Jackson, Mississippi. In his work, Laymon discusses the personal and political themes of race and family, body and shame and poverty and place. He has been compared to Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alice Walker and Mark Twain.
His memoir, “Heavy: An American Memoir,” unpacks what a lifetime of secrets and lies does to a Black body, a Black family and a nation hunkered on the edge of moral collapse while including Laymon’s humor.
Laymon will give a Zoom reading from the book at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9. Here's a link to the event, which is sponsored by the Literary Arts Institute. Please note the audience chat will be disabled and all audience questions will be screened.
“Heavy: An American Memoir” won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media and was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times.
Along with his memoir, Laymon wrote an essay called “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America” while he was a contributing editor at Gawker. That piece evolved into a collection of essays on race, violence, celebrity, family and creativity. He is also the authorr of “Long Division: A Novel.”
In addition to Gawker, his work has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, NPR, Colorlines, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Ebony, Guernica, The Oxford American, Lit Hub and many others.
Laymon founded the Catherine Coleman Initiative for the Arts and Social Justice in 2020. This program is aimed to encourage Mississippi kids and their parents to become more comfortable with reading, writing, revising and sharing.
Currently, Laymon is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. He also is a member of Black Artists for Freedom and was named to the Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 in 2015 and selected as a member of the Root 100 in 2013 and 2014.
Laymon is working on several projects including a long poem, a horror novel, a children’s book and a personal narrative about family and Mississippi.
The Literary Arts Institute (LAI) was founded in 1997 to foster creative writing, publishing and interaction between students and writers.
The LAI fosters the mentoring of CSB/SJU undergraduates by sponsoring the McNeely Creative Writer in Residence, who provides constructive feedback and advice for undergraduate creative writers. Additionally, the LAI supports publications and authors via the Sister Mariella Gable Prize which is given each year by CSB for an important work of literature published by Graywolf Press and encourages the artistry of fine letterpress through its partnership with the Welle Book Arts Studio and independent presses such as Bruno Press.