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Publisher's Summary

Author and essayist Kiese Laymon is one of the most unique, stirring, and powerful new voices in American social and cultural commentary. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America is a collection of Laymon's essays, touching on subjects ranging from family, race, violence, and celebrity to music, writing, and coming of age in the rural Mississippi Gulf Coast. Laymon's writing is unflinchingly honest, while also being smart, lacerating, and unexpectedly funny.

In How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, Laymon deals in depth with his own personal story, which is filled with trials that illuminate under-appreciated aspects of contemporary American life. As revealed in the audiobook's title essay, Laymon attended three colleges before earning his undergraduate degree. He was suspended from the first of these institutions, Millsaps College, following a probationary period resulting from a controversial essay he published on campus. As the school's president described it, the "Key Essay in question was written by Kiese Laymon, a controversial writer who consistently editorializes on race issues."

Controversy seemed to follow this young writer, but as he himself puts it, "my job is to ask questions, to broaden the scope of American literature by broadening the scope of who is written to and imaginatively writes back." Laymon voice is something new and unexpected in contemporary American writing, mixing a colloquial voice with acerbic wit, sharp insights, and blast-furnace heat that calls to mind no one so much as a black 21st-century Mark Twain. Much like Twain, Laymon's writing is steeped in controversial issues both private and public. From his biting critiques of race politics to revelations of his own internal struggles with American "blackness", Laymon taps into an ongoing conversation that is played out consciously and subconsciously across all of our artistic, cultural, political, and economic realities.

©2013 Kiese Laymon (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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I'm Stunned By This Collection

I am stunned by this collection of personal essays, and trying to figure out why I haven't been hearing more about it.

Kiese Laymon is a black writer who grew up in Mississippi, and here he excavates much of the pain he's endured throughout his life — an uncle's drug addiction and premature death, a racially charged incident that got him kicked out of college, police encounters with blackness as the only probable cause, working with a black editor who ultimately dropped him for being "too black, too racial," and just generally trying to find his way as a southern black man in a white New York world.

A recurring theme in this collection is black men learning how to offer love and friendship to other black men, which I found very moving. There's also a self-deprecating quality to many of the essays that felt very raw and real to me. This is a man who knows self-doubt, depression, and suicidal thoughts, and here he lays it all bare.

Kiese Laymon is also just a brilliant, witty, rule-breaking writer. There were a few essays that felt a bit out of place — like on pop culture icons Kanye West and Bernie Mac — but DAMN those essays were also super good. His writing on southern blackness in music, art, and culture is fascinating and made me think about Beyoncé and Outkast in a whole new light.

I loved this collection and hope it will keep bubbling up into mainstream consciousness.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wow.

So great. I can't wait to get his next book. Never read anything like this before. Unique writing voice. Unique message.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Incredible.

Read, listen, and be ready to be challenged and, hopefully, transformed. This is not hyperbole; this is honestly writ large. Absolutely, positively brilliant.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Just what I needed...

This is an amazing book, definitely teared up more than once. A good book about growth and being a black man/masculine person especially from the south.