Kiese Laymon: Heavy

Author Talk: Kiese Laymon

Thursday, March 4, 2021 Recording

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Kiese Laymon is the author of Heavy: An American Memoir. Heavy won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, and was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times. In this fearless, provocative book, Laymon 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.

Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of A Question of Freedom and Bastards of the Reagan Era, calls Heavy “the most honest and intimate account of growing up black and southern since Richard Wright’s Black Boy.” In a starred review, Kirkus wrote, “Laymon skillfully couches his provocative subject matter in language that is pyrotechnic and unmistakably his own… A dynamic memoir that is unsettling in all the best ways.” Heavy was named a best book of 2018 by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly; and a finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction and was a nominee for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. The audiobook, read by the author, was named the Audible 2018 Audiobook of the Year.

Laymon is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, NPR, Colorlines, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Ebony, Guernica, The Oxford AmericanLit Hub, and many others in addition to Gawker A member of Black Artists for Freedom, he was named to the Ebony Magazine Power 100 in 2015 and selected as a member of the Root 100 in 2013 and 2014. A graduate of Oberlin College, he holds an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. He is the Hubert H. McAlexander Chair of English at the University of Mississippi, where he founded the Catherine Coleman Initiative for the Arts and Social Justice. 

For more information on Kiese Laymon, visit

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