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I am stunned by this collection of personal essays, and trying to figure out why I haven't been hearing more about it.
Kiese Laymon is a black writer who grew up in Mississippi, and here he excavates much of the pain he's endured throughout his life — an uncle's drug addiction and premature death, a racially charged incident that got him kicked out of college, police encounters with blackness as the only probable cause, working with a black editor who ultimately dropped him for being "too black, too racial," and just generally trying to find his way as a southern black man in a white New York world.
A recurring theme in this collection is black men learning how to offer love and friendship to other black men, which I found very moving. There's also a self-deprecating quality to many of the essays that felt very raw and real to me. This is a man who knows self-doubt, depression, and suicidal thoughts, and here he lays it all bare.
Kiese Laymon is also just a brilliant, witty, rule-breaking writer. There were a few essays that felt a bit out of place — like on pop culture icons Kanye West and Bernie Mac — but DAMN those essays were also super good. His writing on southern blackness in music, art, and culture is fascinating and made me think about Beyoncé and Outkast in a whole new light.
I loved this collection and hope it will keep bubbling up into mainstream consciousness.
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