Kiese Laymon

In this honest and heartfelt episode about the power of writing a reckoning (rather than a tell-all), guest Kiese Laymon shares why he wrote his latest memoir, Heavy, as a letter to his mother, how writing the book came at a cost, and what having “arrived” as a writer both changes and doesn’t change his trajectory as a writer. This is a show about reinventing forms, writing the book you need to write as a soul-cleansing, and the layered meanings that reside in all of our stories.


Kiese Laymon is the author of three books: a novel, Long Division, and two memoirs, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America and Heavy, which won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. His work deals with American racism, feminism, family, masculinity, geography, Hip-hop, and Southern black life. His provocations, essays, and other works of short fiction appear on his blog, Cold Drank. Laymon has been published in numerous online publications.He teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi.

The Takeaway: Layering Meaning Into Your Story

Is there a deeper truth underneath the story that is currently unfolding for you? Like Kiese you might have one story—like his story of weight loss—only to find out that the deeper story is so much more. I think this is often the case when we move past the personal and examine the cultural, the deeper influences that have shaped our stories. Make a list of themes that you’re currently working with, or that you might want to write about some day. As yourself the question: How are these themes personal? And then, How are these themes cultural? And then: How are these themes universal? This is an excellent starting point for begging to layer meaning into your writing, and where memoir is concerned, that’s a blue ribbon recipe.

Connect with Our Communities

Never miss an episode

Subscribe to Write-minded on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or by email.