Join Oregon Humanities for an onstage conversation with Kiese Laymon, author of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America and Heavy. Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi. In his observant, often hilarious work, Laymon does battle with the personal and the political: race and family, body and shame, poverty and place. This program is part of Oregon Humanities’ 2023 Consider This series on people, place, and power.
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About Our Guest
Kiese Laymon is the author of the award-winning memoir Heavy, the groundbreaking essay collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, and the genre-defying novel Long Division.
Laymon’s IndieBound bestselling memoir, 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. A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable—an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family.
When Laymon was a contributing editor at Gawker, he wrote an essay called “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America.” This harrowing piece, which describes four incidents in which Laymon was threatened with a gun, evolved into a collection of lacerating essays on race, violence, celebrity, family, and creativity.
In Laymon’s novel, the NAACP Image Award-winning Long Division, 14-year-old City, a newly minted YouTube star, is sent to stay with family in rural Melahatchie, Mississippi. What happens next transgresses the boundaries of fiction and reality, present and past, as City travels through time.
Laymon founded the Catherine Coleman Initiative for the Arts and Social Justice, a program aimed at getting Mississippi kids and their parents more comfortable reading, writing, revising and sharing. He is the Libby Shearn Moody Professor of English and Creative Writing at Rice University.