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


This is one of those rare books that dares to admit that it isn't written for everyone. Anyone can read it, of course, but not every chapter is going to speak to everyone with the power that it will to some.

Mostly, this book is written for African American males, a group to which I do not belong, and can put up no pretense of truly understanding, much as I would like to.

Laymon is a gifted writer and this collection of essays is deeply personal, introspective, and critical. He criticizes even as he embraces popular black icons, politicians, himself and his family members. His sharp observations force his readers to do the same, simultaneously embracing and pushing away the cultural and familial forces that shape American lives.

Laymon discusses being a man, having dark skin, being an American, hip-hop, comedy, how hip-hop and comedy inform gender relations in African American culture, cultural differences, police bias, the industrial prison complex, family, friends, alcoholism, drugs, friends, self-acceptance, being a writer, and so much more.

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America is sad, funny, intelligent, personal, and inspiring.

I cannot suggest these essays strongly enough. Not all of them are meant for everyone, but I think (I hope) that it's okay to stand at the periphery of someone else's experience and get an idea of what they go through. There will be moments of overlap, because we're all human, and there will be gaps in experience that are just as, if not more, important to give space to breathe.