Kiese Laymon may be the best writer and curator in a generation
August 5, 2013 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Kiese Laymon, is writing some of the most innovative pieces about race and life in America right now. Previously discussed here when his essay How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance was published on Gawker and took the world by storm. He has two books out this summer, his debut novel Long Division and an essay collection also entitled How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, which includes a correspondence between Laymon and four other authors, including Mychal Denzel Smith of The Nation. Long Division has received some very positive press although the establishment literary outlets have not (yet) weighed in, unsurprisingly.

He frequently publishes early versions of essays on his blog, Cold Drank, where he also curates a diverse array of work by others (as he does on Laymon isn't afraid to let his work evolve in public, and writes a lot about the writing process itself, including this piece at Guernica on the travails of publishing in an industry unable to understand writing by and for black Southern authors.

Since his first essay on Gawker, he has finally started to be noticed, although he's been putting out powerful stuff on his blog for years. As he says in the Guernica essay, "I’ll get my work out to my folks and if they want more, I’ll show them. If not, that’s fine. I’m a writer. I write.”
posted by cushie (16 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
I just read that Gawker essay. Holy shit.
posted by naju at 4:42 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

The saddest part of essays like How to Slowly Kill Yourself or fiction like Invisible Man isn't necessarily the despicable acts committed, but the inevitability of further violent injustice.
posted by Turkey Glue at 4:52 PM on August 5, 2013

That essay was quite a harrowing and devastating read. It's easily one of the most powerful pieces of non-fiction I've ever come across.
posted by treepour at 5:16 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was about to leave work and happened to click on the first Gawker essay. I had to just stop everything until I'd finished it. It took my breath away.
posted by chatongriffes at 6:11 PM on August 5, 2013

A few month later, Mama and I sit in President George Harmon's office. The table is an oblong mix of mahogany and ice water. All the men at the table are smiling, flipping through papers and twirling pens in their hands except for me. I am still 19, two years older than Trayvon Martin will be when he swings back.

This guy is good.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 6:58 PM on August 5, 2013

And an NPR interview as well as another remarkable piece for Gawker, "The Worst of White Folks."
posted by cushie at 7:42 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah, wow. That gawker essay was one of the most amazing things I've ever read. I don't have words. It's
posted by sweetkid at 8:06 PM on August 5, 2013

The level of literacy should bring a tear to a persons eyes.
posted by buzzman at 9:27 PM on August 5, 2013

I went back and re-read the "How to" essay, since it'd been about a year. I've been trying to articulate why I think it's special.

It's brilliant enough as a brief tour of pervasive racial injustice, or as a personal narrative. But it's more than that. I read it and I'm not just angry at the John Deeres and Mississippi college presidents of the world or other more hidden/systemic causes of injustice (even though I am angry about those things). When I'm done reading, I'm left focused less on how messed up things are, and more on thinking about my own moral responsibilities to say yes to life instead of slowly killing myself, and what I might need to do help others do the same.
posted by weston at 12:06 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow. I had somehow missed his writing before. Thank you for the post.

I had never heard of Millsap College. Mississippi Goddamn.
posted by spitbull at 4:11 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

And talk about swinging back.
posted by spitbull at 4:12 AM on August 6, 2013

Just randomly chosen for the unconvinced who are deciding whether to RTFA:

When Mama leaves for work in the morning, I break back in her house, go under her pillow and get her gun. Mama and I haven't paid the phone or the light bill so it's dark, hot and lonely in that house, even in the morning. I lie in a bathtub of cold water, still sweating and singing love songs to myself. I put the gun to my head and cock it.

Ralph Ellison or Toni Morrison would be envious of that.
posted by spitbull at 4:14 AM on August 6, 2013

The level of literacy should bring a tear to a persons eyes.

I'm not sure i understand this. Is it a grammar/punctuation joke? Is it mislaid possessive apostrophe, and perhaps also a version of "you're/he's so articulate"?
posted by liketitanic at 6:23 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Uh, no.

If you need further assistance; you can always email me.

posted by buzzman at 9:43 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

How did I not know about this guy?

Thank you for the introduction.
posted by rtha at 11:42 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

The Guernica essay is also pretty fierce and painful.
posted by bakerina at 10:34 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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