The Weight of Life: A Tale By Kiese Laymon In His Memoir Heavy
In his 2018 book, Heavy: An American Memoir, Kiese Laymon recounts his own experience with the weight of life: his physical weight, the weight of his emotional/spiritual being, and the weight of the communities of which he is a part.
Words, Corwin Malcolm Davis
Image, Courtesy of Goodreads
Weight is an ever-present reality for us all, but for some, that weight is heavier to carry. The ideas of some in regard to “beauty” or “attractiveness” is someone who weighs under a certain number of pounds. The shaming of persons do not meet these standards is prevalent, and unfortunately, the torment begins for many people even before they complete grade school. But what happens when one is carrying physical weight and emotional baggage? How does one live into one’s own self when the weight of one’s body and the weight of one’s soul combined are so much of a burden to shoulder?
In his 2018 book, Heavy: An American Memoir, Kiese Laymon grapples with these questions and more as he recounts his own experience with the weight of his life.
In this memoir, Laymon is really unearthing stories about three different types of weight: namely, his physical weight, the weight of his emotional/spiritual being, and the weight of the communities of which he is a part. These three narratives are expertly woven together through prose to demonstrate for the reader just how heavy life can be. What must be named, however, is that Laymon also paints a total portrait of his experiences. While he does write concerning painful and difficult subjects such as addiction, trauma, abuse, and body politics, he weaves them together with the whole of his other experiences that include love, family, and growth.
The book can be difficult to read at times because Laymon, in his truth-telling, discloses some of the weight that he has had to carry. A large portion of the book accounts his relationship with his mother, a relationship that is simultaneously immersed with both danger and care. One passage, for me, perfectly pronounces this tension. Early in the book he describes how his mother used to beat his “fat naked black body” across the same bed in which they would hold and comfort each other. Laymon writes: “I wish you could have just chosen one kind of touch, even if it was just beating me ten times a day every day. That would have made everything a lot less confusing.”
Heavy is at the same time both provocative and soothing, equally exasperating and inviting. Throughout his memoirs and reflections, Laymon points the reader toward the multifarious nature of the weights we carry, and to some extent, the complexity of the weights that bind us.