Reviews

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon

marissasurber's review against another edition

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emotional informative reflective tense fast-paced

4.5

booksaremypeople's review against another edition

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5.0

Kiese Laymon, I believe, is one of the most important living American writers. This collection of thirteen essays is revised from his original collection in 2013 and includes six new and timely essays. Laymon candidly discusses the frustrating process of having to buy back the rights to his essay collection from the original publisher. Born and raised in Mississippi, Laymon writes about his connection to the state as well as his experiences living as a Black man in academia in the South. He looks at football, hop-hop, family relationships, and personal experiences through the lens of race, class, politics and Covid in America. His intelligence, humor and honesty shine through each essay. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America should be required reading in this country and having only read Heavy, I am eager to read everything Laymon has ever written and I eagerly await his next publication. Thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for the advanced review copy of the book.

ballen790's review against another edition

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4.0

I truly enjoy Kiese Laymon’s writing style. A fan after reading the masterpiece that is Heavy, I finally got around to reading this collection of essays. His writing sounds like beautiful story telling or sitting beside a good friend on a couch and just listening.

The letter to uncle Jimmy broke my heart, along with the letters shared amongst a group of friends. His flashbacks and recalling tragic instances of policing gone all the way wrong makes me want to do more in the world. I will admit the in-depth southern hip hop essay was dragging for me at first but as I continued I started to see the relevance more and more. The concept of protecting black women or the lack there of, how good MBDTF is and Kanye’s state of affairs now, offering help to a cousin you looked up to but not begging them to visit... just so many interesting thoughts and perspectives shared in this short text.

The cultural and pop cultural references were also a nice addition. President Obama and Mitt Romney and that sh*t they don’t like had me cackling. Kurt and his white BeBe’s kids... just deep emotional storytelling with alll the range of emotions.

He nods to many black celebrities, comedians, performers, thinkers, and my personal favorite Frank Ocean.

This is a great read. Heartbreaking, hilarious and quick.

alaiyo0685's review against another edition

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5.0

This was a collection of essays that I couldn't read without having a pen nearby, because everything in me wanted to mark this book up. Kiese is inviting his readers into conversation with this work, and it's definitely a conversation I want others to join us in.

viewtoakel's review against another edition

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5.0

I need to sort though a lot of emotion before I can even begin to unpack this intellectually. This should be required reading for every single person in America. Kiese is a gift to our culture that no one should overlook and I'm so grateful for every single hurt his words forced me to feel.

the_spines's review against another edition

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4.0

Full review here: http://meganprokott.com/how-to-slowly-kill-yourself-and-others-in-america-kiese-laymon/

emsharples's review against another edition

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4.0

Very well written and quite an interesting read. I haven't read Between the World and Me yet, but I have a feeling this is a good precursor to that.

artofmulata's review against another edition

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4.0

A collection of essays on Blackness in 20th/21st Century America. The piece on his grandfather's perceived failings had me laughing on the subway. The reflected letters from gay and trans men made me angry at the world. His reflections on the loss of cultural heroes (Bernie Mac, Tupac, Michael Jackson) made me sad.

It's a perennial form, the blues as book. Black pain, black anger, black grief & joy, served as a cold dish. I'd read the opening essay online and as a result the book sat on my floor for close to a month before I found the strength to pick it up. I'm glad I did, but now I'm afraid to leave the home of my thought.

sijil_21's review against another edition

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inspiring reflective sad medium-paced

4.5

Always trust a book that's got a Roxanne Gay review on the cover. 

emmaito's review against another edition

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5.0

I truly believe that Kiese Laymon is one of the greatest writers of our time. I had How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America on my shelf for a while now, I but took my time in approaching this revised edition. I feel like I'm always reflecting on Kiese's work for days after & this text is no different; it stayed in my head & in my heart, as I sat with Kiese's honest reckoning of our world.

In the first essay, titled "Mississippi: An Awakening, In Days," Kiese takes us back to the beginning of coronavirus in the US, writing the death toll each day as he travels for his book. He shares with us his fears for the people he cares for & for himself; so many vulnerable, difficult moments. Kiese shows us how slowly it all seemed to move, yet how fast COVID was in taking peoples' lives, particularly because of the intentional (in)actions of people like Donald Trump and Governor Tate Reeves in Mississippi. This deeply layered & intertwined with the murders of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor & an awakening of our country; "I am more successful than I've ever imagined. Yet, I am terrified of sleeping because my body no longer knows how to dream. I know that people die in their dreams. I am not afraid of death. I am afraid of being killed while dreaming. Driving while Black. Jogging while Black. Dreaming while Black. Fighting while Black. Loving while Black. I wonder if movement, mobility, love are the features of Black life the worst of white Americans most despise." In Kiese's words, we can feel the heaviness; the weight of the pandemic of racism.

In this collection, Kiese brings us back in time, writing on the South's influence on Northern hip-hop; a letter to his deceased Uncle Jimmy; email conversations between his mother & him. As I run out of space for words, I leave on a quote I continue to sit with, "Mostly, Uncle Jimmy, I wish you could have told me we are fucked up, and much of the nation is that way, but we owe it to our teachers and our children to imagine new routes into beauty, health, compassion, citizenry, and American imagination. We owe it to each other to love and insist on meaningful revision until the day we die."