How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays

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Kiese Laymon’s collection of essays reaches the pinnacle of truth-telling that only essayists with this author’s candor and depth can achieve. Laymon shares his contemplations on the impacts of the pandemic on Black Americans, the insistence of white nationalist symbols in Mississippi, and ponderings on racialized realities and identities in the South. He is writing about himself, his family, and his friends. What binds the narratives together is Laymon’s immense care and concern for his Grandmama, for hiphop, for the people.

It would be an oversimplification to state that trauma is a primary theme of the essays. Yes, Laymon lays bare generational pain that manifests in betrayals of self and others; thoughts and actions that slowly kill self, dreams, and relationships. At the same time, the author summons the reader to feel and inhale the breadth and intensity of his love and pride for the culture.

Most of us don’t deserve the honesty that Laymon serves on the page, but it’s what the reader receives: plain truth, often painful, thoroughly unvarnished. Harsh truths explore angst and frustration that cannot be fully grasped without walking in the shoes of a Black male Mississippian. Laymon engages the reader intellectually about collective pain emanating from various streams of violence against Black life: systemic, structural, and interpersonal. More importantly, his prose evokes a visceral reaction: one that inspires empathy, underscoring great love for humanity.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 176 pages
Publisher Scribner
Publish Date 2020-Nov-10
ISBN 9781982170820 Buy this Book
Issue February 2021
Category Poetry & Short Stories


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