Visitor: Kiese Laymon

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Kiese Laymon, best-selling author and contributor to the 2019-’20 KU Common Book, Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation, presented the fall keynote lecture for the KU Common Book program.

Kiese Laymon, best-selling author and contributor to the 2019-’20 KU Common Book, Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation, presented the fall keynote lecture for the KU Common Book program. 

WHEN: Oct. 3, 4

WHERE: Lied Center and Woodruff Auditorium

BACKGROUND: Laymon is the critically acclaimed author of the novel Long Division and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. His memoir, Heavy, which was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Medal in 2019, was named a best book of 2018 by The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR and others.

ANECDOTE: Following the release of Heavy in 2018, Laymon said, “Life was sort of hard after it, because the world knew shit about my family that my family probably didn’t want them to know, things about me I didn’t want them to know. I was in a real bad place. … But I reread the book two weeks ago and I thought about all the conversations I’ve had with people after it came out, and today, I feel a lot less isolated. I feel a lot less alone.”

QUOTE: “I like to try to write books where the thing I’m writing about I don’t say explicitly, but it’s there,” Laymon said. Heavy, he explained, is really about the struggles his mother’s generation faced before and after the civil-rights movement. “They didn’t know how to talk about the toils they had to go through to be in some of those white spaces. They didn’t know what to do with their kids. And I’m not blaming them. But it’s true.”


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