Book Review: Heavy

Memoirs are my favorite. There’s just something about hearing another human’s story that is so connecting, inspiring, and thought-provoking. To me, this is how we learn to do better - by hearing from others. Other people’s stories help us understand the consequences of things we may not have experienced ourselves. They help us become more compassionate to that which we don’t know or don’t understand. As a clinician, I find this to be a valuable component of my work with clients.

In Kiese Laymon’s memoir, Heavy, the reader is taken along on his journey through the trials and tribulations of life as a Black kid growing up in Jackson, Mississippi.  His experiences run the gamut: racism, poverty, trauma, food scarcity, negative body image, weight stigma, disordered eating, compulsive overexercise, gambling, and parent-child conflict in a single parent family. 

Here’s an excerpt that  caught my attention:

“My body knew that my weight, the exact number, became an emotional, psychological, and spiritual destination a long time ago. I knew, and worried, about how much I weighed and exactly how much money I had every day of my life since I was eleven years old. The weight reminded me of how much I’d eaten, how much I’d starved, how much I’d exercised, and how much I sat still yesterday. My body knew I was no more liberated and free when I was [X] pounds with  [X] percent body fat than I was at  [X]  pounds….I was addicted to controlling the number on the scale…”

This book lived up to it’s name - it was certainly heavy. If you feel especially triggered when it comes to the topics listed above, you might want to hold off on this one. Otherwise, you may find that Laymon’s words bring you an additional dose of compassion for others - a reminder that the human experience is layered and sometimes these layers are hiding a painful past that influences the behaviors and actions before us today. Thanks for sharing your story, Kiese Laymon.