I read this book.
I listened to it on audio shortly after.
I am in awe of the writer's way with words.
" I did not want to write to you. I wanted to write a lie. "
A lie- he does not write. Kiese gives us nothing but TRUTH in this detailed letter that he writes to his mother, for all of us. I don't think telling you about his story would be giving spoilers but this is one of those memoirs that reads like a novel so I really don't want to give away much of it. Instead, I'll just tell you all the things that I loved about it:
This memoir is raw. The kind of honest that makes you uncomfortable at times because it gives you details that tell you exactly how ugly a situation is. Kiese describes the scene but also his feelings about the scene. He explains his emotions and then he breaks them down in a way that tells you that he has taken the time to reflect. He does not shy away from talking about his hopes, fears, dreams, insecurities but also, his failures- perceived and real. It's absolutely beautiful to see a black man be this vulnerable in writing.
In this book, Kiese acknowledges something that too many black men are still pretending is not true: that their belief that black women are invincible is literally hurting us. This book shows you how Kiese's relationship with the mother who loves him and abuses him shaped him and how the wisdom of his aging grandmother helped him. He talks about the different ways that boys learn to hurt girls from the men who hurt women in our communities. What really stands out to me, though- is that despite Kiese's understanding of this truth, there are still many instances were he fails to come through for black women and I like that he shows that in the book.
This book is about the weight of lies. All the lies that black men and fat people are fed in our society. The lies that our parents and the adults in our lives tell us. The ones that they try to keep us from. Most importantly, it's about the lies that we tell ourselves.
The heaviness that the title refers to can be felt throughout this memoir. Kiese deals with the weight of expectations, of oppression, of lies, of toxic masculinity, systemic racism and depression. All of this is heavy and Kiese does a wonderful job at explaining the toll that this takes on a young boy who is struggling to accept the body that he already considers "too heavy".
Eating disorders are not talked about in our communities. We talk about how skinny someone is or how fat they are. We talk about gaining weight like it's a sign that you are eating and losing weight like it's proof of illness. The reality is much more complex because weight rarely reflects health and Kiese is a perfect example of that.
There is also a lot to be said about the author's tone. One of the blurbs on the book calls it genre bending and I think that it truly is. This book read like a novel but it had so much poetic prose and actual poetry as well. If you are a fan of audio books, I would definitely recommend checking that out as well because it's narrated by the author and he does a PHENOMENAL job.
I think this book should be mandatory reading for all black men and that everyone else should read it at least once.
I will end this review by saying the following:
Thank you, Kiese.
Thank you for not writing a lie.
Thank you for sharing your truth with us.