Booklist Reviews 2018 September #1
*Starred Review* Often in his spectacular memoir, Laymon (Long Division, 2013) addresses you: his mother, a scholar and university professor who gave him the gifts of reading, rereading, writing, and revision. Laymon, now a university writing professor himself, recalls the traumas of his Mississippi youth. He captures his confusion at being molested by his babysitter and at witnessing older boys abuse a girl he liked; at having no food in the house despite his mother's brilliance; at being beaten and loved ferociously, often at the same time. His hungry mind and body grow, until, like a flipping switch, at college he's compelled to shrink himself with a punishing combination of diet and exercise. And that's barely the start of his life story thus far, with remembered moments in book-lined rooms and smoky casinos, conversations that leap from the page, the digits on a scale, and scrolling sentences. Laymon applies his book's title to his body and his memories; to his inheritance as a student, a teacher, a writer, an activist, a black man, and his mother's son—but also to the weight of truth, and writing it. So artfully crafted, miraculously personal, and continuously disarming, this is, at its essence, powerful writing about the power of writing. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2018 September #1
Race, politics, poverty, addiction, body issues, family, manhood, feminism, education—this book has it all. Laymon (Long Division; How to Slowly Kill Yourself) breaks down what it means to be a large black boy growing up in Mississippi, exploring the politics and policing of black male bodies, the heartache of black excellence and white privilege, the conflict that comes with loving an abusive parent and stepping away to save yourself. As beautiful as it is heartbreaking, this examination of language and place takes readers into Laymon's childhood as the son of a strong black woman who is unable to reconcile her child's pain with her own. Sexual abuse and anorexia are examined with care and attention, as are the emotions and consequences attached to these experiences. VERDICT This powerful, passionate narrative is hopeful but real, reading like a confessional with no sugarcoating. If you care about black lives and black experience, this is a must-read. Excellent for readers interested in family dynamics, race relations, higher education, and body awareness.—Gricel Dominguez, Florida International Univ. Lib., Miami
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2018 August #4
In this stylish and complex memoir, Laymon, an English professor at the University of Mississippi and novelist (Long Division), presents bittersweet episodes of being a chubby outsider in 1980s Mississippi. He worships his long-suffering, resourceful grandmother, who loves the land her relatives farmed for generations and has resigned herself to the fact of commonplace bigotry. Laymon laces the memoir with clever, ironic observations about secrets, sexual trauma, self-deception, and pure terror related to his family, race, Mississippi, friends, and a country that refuses to love him and his community. He becomes an educator and acknowledges the inadequacies in his own education, noting that his teachers "weren't being paid right. I knew they were expected to do work they were unprepared to start or finish." He also writes about living among white people, including a family for whom his grandmother did the laundry: "It ain't about making white folk feel what you feel," he quotes his grandmother. "It's about not feeling what they want you to feel." His evolution is remarkable, from a "hard-headed" troubled teen to an intellectually curious youth battling a college suspension for a pilfering a library book to finally journeying to New York to become a much-admired professor and accomplished writer. Laymon convincingly conveys that difficult times can be overcome with humor and self-love, as he makes readers confront their own fears and insecurities. (Oct.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.