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The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II by Leonard Pitts Jr.

The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II

Could you find the courage to do what’s right in a world on fire?

Pulitzer-winning journalist and bestselling novelist Leonard Pitts, Jr.’s new historical page-turner is a great American tale of race and war, following three characters from the Jim Crow South as they face the enormous changes World War II triggers in the United States.

“The Last Thing You Surrender” is the intertwining story of two families from the Jim Crow South – one black and poor, the other wealthy and white – through the carnage of World War II, an ordeal that will threaten their faith and challenge everything they know about race hatred and love.

An affluent white marine survives Pearl Harbor at the cost of a black messman’s life only to be sent, wracked with guilt, to the Pacific and taken prisoner by the Japanese . . . a young black woman, widowed by the same events at Pearl, finds unexpected opportunity and a dangerous friendship in a segregated Alabama shipyard feeding the war . . . a black man, who as a child saw his parents brutally lynched, is conscripted to fight Nazis for a country he despises and discovers a new kind of patriotism in the all-black 761st Tank Battalion.


Set against a backdrop of violent racial conflict on both the front lines and the home front, The Last Thing You Surrender explores the powerful moral struggles of individuals from a divided nation. What does it take to change someone’s mind about race? What does it take for a country and a people to move forward, transformed?

Nora Jean M. Goodreads 5-Star Customer Review for The Last Thing You Surrender 
This is a POWERFUL read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is an avid reader. The language is beautiful although the story is haunting. The character development is very real, and it makes the reader hurt even more for these people who become important to the readers’ lives. This is an area of history that we do not learn in school, and the author has provided an imitate portrait of this time. Read this book!

Reader Review from Grayson Hugh
5.0 out of 5 stars | A New Classic

The best novels not only entertain us with good characters, an interesting story and skillful prose; they show us something about what it means to be a human being. Tolstoy, Joyce , Faulkner, Hemmingway, Updike, Morrison, Baldwin, Wright, Momaday, to name just a few, have created timeless works that are timeless stories of the human experience. With “The Last Thing You Surrender”, by Leonard Pitts, Jr., we have a new classic.

It is fitting that it is a story about race, as it would seem the brains and souls of men and women, especially in America, need to continue to evolve. But this book, The Last Thing You Surrender, is more, much more, than a dry treatise on that subject. It is a love story, a human story, a story of war and peace, it is a story about the love, pain, the joys and sorrows that pass between a parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, sister and brother.

It is the story of what is learned and lost between forces of good and evil. It is eloquent, heartbreaking and beautiful. It is a new classic. Read it, America; read it, world. And learn some more about that most tremendous gift of all that the Creator gave us: the ability to see things through another’s eyes, to care deeply about someone other than one’s self, in short, to love.

Reader Review from Sheila Boyce
5.0 out of 5 stars | Powerful, compelling and important story

Since first reading Leonard Pitts, Jr.’s columns in the Miami Herald almost 18 years ago, I have found that if Pitts has something to say, I want to read it. . . in fact, I need to read it. He can put complex, often difficult, ideas into beautiful words that show the reader his point of view, educating and helping the reader gain empathy and understanding.

I ordered Pitt’s latest book, #TheLastThingYouSurrender, as soon as it was released – and it was everything I expected and more. It is a deeply researched work of historical fiction, with a compelling story that is hard to put down. I tried to keep from racing through the book, as I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters who became friends, and who showed me the world through their eyes – which is why we read!

Yes, there are parts that are very difficult to read, but part of the power of this book is to show us, to remind us of the brutality of parts of our history that get glossed over as some of us extol the “good old days.”

I highly recommend this book, and hope Mr. Pitts will write a sequel to show us how they carry their inspiration and motivation into battles to come.

Editorial Review: The Last Thing You Surrender
Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, turns again to America’s fraught history of race relations in this unflinching, gritty WWII saga. It centers on a trio of finely drawn characters, two black and one white, all from Alabama, whose worlds collide because of Pearl Harbor.

Marine Private George Simon—wealthy, religious, white—survives the sinking of his ship because Eric Gordy, a black messman, rescues him. Eric dies, and while George recuperates, he pays a condolence call on Eric’s widow, Thelma. Thelma and her brother, Luther Hayes, a bitter alcoholic, are living with the memory of their parents’ lynching 20 years earlier.

George and Thelma begin a correspondence after he returns to active duty; she takes a job in a shipyard. Luther, deciding this is a white man’s war, tries to evade the draft but ends up serving with a tank battalion in Europe. George endures horrific conditions in the Pacific as Thelma faces growing racial hostility at work, culminating in a brutal moment of violence that compels her to make a difficult decision.

While remaining true to his characters, Pitts brings the story lines to realistic conclusions even as he holds out hope for the future, resulting in a polished, affecting novel. —Janelle Walden Agyeman, Agent Marie Brown Assoc.


 

Chapter Excerpt: The Last Thing You Surrender

Luther stood on top of the tank. He felt his mouth fall open. He felt his mind fumble for language. But there were no words.

It was a camp of some sort, barracks arranged in neat rows. And hobbling, shuffling, tottering toward them from every direction came an assemblage of stick men in filthy black-and-white striped prison suits. Maybe some of them were women, too. It was hard to tell. The creatures seemed sexless.

Dazed, Luther dismounted the tank. His mouth was still open.

The creatures swarmed the colored tankers. It was difficult to believe they were even human. Their eyes were like those of small, frightened animals, peering out from the caverns their eye sockets had become. Their mouths were drawn tight against their bony jaws. You could look at them and see where tibia met patella, count their ribs by sight. They were little more than skeletons wearing rags of flesh.

And their eyes gleamed with a madness of joy, an insanity of deliverance at the sight of the colored tankers. They shook clasped hands toward Heaven, they smiled terrible, toothless smiles, they looked up at the Negro soldiers like penitents gazing upon the very throne of God. A woman—at least he thought it was a woman—took Luther’s hand and lifted it to her cheek. Her grip was like air. She held his skin to hers, which was papery and thin, almost translucent. Her face contorted into an expression of raw, utter sorrow, and she made groaning sounds that did not seem quite human. It took Luther a moment to realize that she was crying because her eyes remained dry, no water glistened on her cheeks. She had no tears left in her.

And Luther, who had never touched a white woman before, who had never so much as brushed against one in a crowd, who had avoided even that incidental contact with a kind of bone-deep terror accessible only to a Negro man in the Deep South who grew up knowing all too well what messing with a white woman could get you, could only stand there, stricken and dumbfounded, as this woman pressed his hand to her cheek. He was a man who had seen his parents tortured and burned to death before his very eyes at his own front door by white people. It had never occurred to him that their capacity for bestial cruelty was not limited to the woes they inflicted upon Negroes.

But here was the proof, this poor thing whose gender he had to guess, this creature whose age might have been 16, might have been 60, holding his hand in her airy grip, crying without tears.

Luther looked around. The place reeked of death and shit, a stink of putrefaction that surely profaned the very nostrils of God. Naked and emaciated bodies lay stacked in piles exactly like cordwood, only their gaping mouths and sightless eyes attesting to the fact that once they had been human and alive. Flies droned above it all in great black clouds, a few of them occasionally descending to walk in the mouths and eyes of the dead.

At length, the crying woman got hold of herself. Luther gently took back his hand. She gave him a shy, weak smile, touched her feathery hand to his shoulder—some sort of thank-you, he supposed—and wandered slowly away. Luther watched her go, still dazed, still failed by language. And he still struggled to understand. It had never occurred to him, not even in his angriest, most bitter imaginings, that something like this was possible.

How could white people do this to white people?

How could anybody do this to anybody?

( Continued… )

© 2019 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Leonard Pitts Jr. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.

Purchase The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Last-Thing-You-Surrender-Novel/dp/1572842458

Barnes&Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-last-thing-you-surrender-leonard-pitts-jr/1128941167

Publisher:
https://www.agatepublishing.com/titles/the-last-thing-you-surrender

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38225249-the-last-thing-you-surrender

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Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker

Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker

 

A clash between Cherokee Indians and their former African slaves comes to a head in the tribal town of Feather Falls.

 

On the same day Sput Louie McClendon is evicted by reviled town tycoon Goliah Lynch, her husband mysteriously vanishes. Has he fallen prey to bushwhackers or timber thieves? Or is Lynch behind his disappearance?

Alone and desperate, Sput Louie turns to town elder Two Bird for help, but with racial tension between the two factions, are his intentions pure?

As Sput Louie’s frantic search for her husband intensifies, she stumbles onto a dark twisted family secret – one that could not only have devastating implications for her, but the entire town of Feather Falls.

 

 

Reviews for Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker

“Seeds of Deception has characters you’ll love, a plot that pulls you in and twists you’ll never see coming.”
— Pamela Samuels Young, author of Anybody’s Daughter anf Abuse of Discretion, NAACP Image Award winner

 

“Hypnotic prose, vivid characters. I was blown away. A masterful first novel.”
— Dwayne Alexander Smith, author of Forty Acres, NAACP Image Award Winner

 

“I wish I could go back and meet all her characters again. Haven’t stopped thinking about them yet. Easily one of my favorite reads this year.” — Lisa Bobbit, reviewer, ReadInColour.com

 

“Ms. Walker’s writing is uninhibited and honest.”
— C. Knight, Book-a-licious Book Club

 


 

 

EXCERPT: Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker

Goliah T. Lynch, known as Old Crow behind his back, was a man of considerable coin. He was arguably the most powerful mixed-blood in Feather Falls, being half-white and half-Cherokee. He was also the man who had owned both Sput’s and Benjamin’s families during slavery.

Sput wanted to spit bile. She knew Benjamin did as well.

That her two older sons were not around gave Sput some small solace.

“Here come the boys.” Benjamin jutted his chin towards the prairie to the left of Goliah Lynch.

She followed his nod. Sure enough, there was Hunter Big, her oldest, trailed by Archie, her middle son. They both knew of her and Benjamin’s loathing for Goliah. They’d cut their teeth on it.

Hunter Big was a bison of a man. He swung a rope-tied red fox from his left hand and carried a bow in his right.

Just like Benjamin, Hunter Big knew by heart the rise and fall of the land. He strode wide and shrewd towards them now.

Trying to keep up with him was Archie, Hunter’s twin brother. They neither looked alike nor were alike. Archie was the only member of the family who had managed to amass any schooling in his 20 years on earth. Hunter, on the other hand, saw no need for the alphabet if it couldn’t back him up in a bear fight.

The two boys flanked their parents and their youngest brother L.B. as they watched Goliah’s wagon roll to a stop.

“Osiyo.” Benjamin greeted first.

At the Cherokee greeting, Goliah flinched like he had been pinched.

“I have a hundred head of new cattle coming in,” he said, skipping any semblance of social pleasantries.

No surprise to Sput there.

“Well, suh,” Benjamin began.

What was a surprise to Sput was hearing her husband refer to this particular man as “sir.” She whipped her head around to give Benjamin a questioning stare. Was that a smile she saw stretching at his lips? A nasty shiver went down her spine, as her ire heated up. But then, she understood how desperation could make a man like Benjamin sacrifice his skin in order to save his bones.

“I — I don’t have a mule no more —” Benjamin continued.

“Cauth we ate him.” L.B. hooked his thumbs around the shoulder straps of overalls that didn’t quite reach his ankles. “He died firth. Then we ate him.”

Benjamin was not sidetracked. “But if you supply a horse,” he went on as if L.B. hadn’t said a word, “I can rope a steer, brand it, and castrate it with the best of ‘em. Never lost a steer to a snippin’ yet.”

Archie jumped right on board with the idea of any one of the McClendons being hired out. “They don’t call Pa Snippin’ Ben for nothing.”

“And Hunter here,” Benjamin pointed with a proud nod of his head, “he can break a bronco into a cow pony in no time. And Archie can rope and ride a salty one all day long,” he said, rounding out the recitation of McClendon family skills.

Goliah began a slow, guttural laugh. “I’m not looking to hire you.” His laugh grew. “I’m looking to evict you.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

Books by Natasha D. Frazier

Shattered Vows: Love, Lies & Consequences Book 3 by Natasha D. Frazier

Rico gambled with his marriage when he cheated on Chloe. Breaking his vows and risking everything for temporary pleasure, he lost his wife’s respect and trust.

Rico returns to God, searching for a quick fix to win Chloe’s heart back, but his heart is the one that is changed. He is a self-proclaimed changed man, willing to go the extra mile to restore his marriage, but he just may be too late.

Has Chloe given up on him? She has forgiven him before, but this is different. “I’m sorry” isn’t enough when vows have been shattered. With the law and the Word of the Lord on her side, she finally gathers enough courage to walk away.

But then tragedy strikes. Is it enough to make Chloe stay, or will she start a new chapter in her life?

 

Listen to a reading from Shattered Vows: Love, Lies & Consequences: https://www.audioacrobat.com/note/CPR8L6bk

 

REVIEWS – SHATTERED VOWS (LOVE, LIES & CONSEQUENCES BOOK 3)

“With this being book 3 in the series, the book definitely kept your attention. There was a great balance of happy, sad & keeping God involved in your decisions. I like the way author takes us through the view of both husband & wife.”

“Loved the interwoven storylines and how everyone seemed to learn from their mistakes. The way forgiveness is expressed is inspiring.”

“It is tough to read books that end the way Shattered Vows ended. When we pray for God’s help, we must trust that His ways are greater than our ways. I am truly convinced that it is nothing but the love of God that gets us through the tough times. The love of God is what caused each character to have a heart of forgiveness. Thank you Natasha for sharing the love of God through your writing.”

 

EXCERPT: SHATTERED VOWS (LOVE, LIES & CONSEQUENCES BOOK 3)

“I want my wife back,” Rico said after careful contemplation of his question.

“Umm hmm. Well seeking direction from God is definitely the best start, but much is going to be required of you; so let’s start from the beginning. Tell me what happened. What is it that brought you to this place? Your wife leaving you and all. And please tell the entire truth. These sessions will only work if you’re honest,” Pastor Lewis reminded Rico.

Rico leaned back in his seat, blew out a chestful of pent-up air, rubbed his hands along his pants and thought for a moment. Sessions? Plural? He had been hopeful that he would get his answer today, but he was more than desperate, so he was willing to do everything it would take to start anew with his wife.

“Long story short, I met this woman who was absolutely breathtaking. I took her out a few times, talked to her on the phone repeatedly and I began to fall for her. She seemed so perfect. When I realized what I was getting myself into, I ended it. But I guess it was too late because she ended up pregnant with my baby,” Rico shared shamefully.

Pastor Lewis studied him for a moment. He noticed Rico’s eyes were lit up when speaking of this woman and that concerned him. He jotted down some notes on a pad.

“What compelled you to start seeing her even though you were married?”

“Man, I mean, sir, I don’t even know. It was never supposed to go so far. It was casual at first, but she became serious.”

“Wait one moment. I am a pastor but I’m also a man. So you and I both know that if she was becoming serious, you were giving her a reason to be. Did you tell her you loved her? That you would leave your wife and marry her? What was it?”

Rico shook his head at the thought of everything he’d told Raegan. It felt awkward to share those things with the pastor. Actually telling someone everything he did made him feel dirty, because he knew he was wrong. He didn’t want the pastor to think of him as some dirty womanizer, because that wasn’t who he was. He was just a guy who got caught up in the moment, in his opinion. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Two ‘Til Midnight: A Novel by Bernard L. Dillard

 

Two ‘Til Midnight: A Novel by Bernard L. Dillard

At the center of a fierce, fiery, and invisible battle is Dr. Garnet Gibbs, a history professor, who is considered to be both a guidepost for and a mystery to many on the job. After hours, she often finds herself caught in a vortex of drama surrounding her family, associates, and friends.

Although she tries to offer support as best she can, the shenanigans of all involved may prove to be too much for her, especially given the potpourri of players in her world, including: Jamay, her adopted daughter; R.J., her grandson, whose father is facing challenges as he serves overseas; Kemal and Manuela, a kinky church couple; Tario, a Que Dog, whose frivolity and wry wit lead to his nail-biting confrontation with death, igniting a spirited rally in the city.

Then there’s Nieko, a gay gentleman, who is rethinking his sexuality but whose ex-boyfriend is making it tough; Rusty, an avowed redneck, who makes a shocking decision since he believes President Trump is taking too long to do something about the current state of affairs; and Celeste, her what-comes-up-comes-out co-worker, who has a knack for catching people off guard with her uncanny sense of humor.

Critical interactions reveal key life lessons, but not all interchanges end on an upswing.

Set in modern times, Two ’Til Midnight is a soap-operatic dramedy that presents two distinct and separate worlds that thrive together, both influencing the other in their own unique way. Ultimately, their coexistence produces a jaw-dropping ending that no one sees coming.

Something’s brewing. Someone’s watching. And time is running out! Midnight is fast approaching. What will go down when the clock strikes twelve?!

(Recommended reading for ages 18+ and includes discussion questions at the end for reading groups and book clubs)

 

 

Book Reviews: Two ‘Til Midnight: A Novel by Bernard L. Dillard

“It’s a cosmic battle royale…Resonates like a live wire…[D]elivers a stunning conclusion that will leave you pondering long after you’ve turned the last page. Five-plus stars to Two ’Til Midnight.” –Publishers Daily Reviews

“In Two ’Til Midnight, author Bernard L. Dillard does an amazing job of storytelling while integrating several of today’s hard-to-discuss topics. . . . This book is not for the faint of heart.” –San Francisco Book Review

“Dillard skillfully weaves each character’s part into the plot…[He] has done an exceptional job creating a novel that will be enjoyed…This is highly recommended reading.” –Reader Views

“Readers who stick with the myriad of characters and [the] blend of supernatural influences, daily life challenges, and confrontations between [two] worlds will find Two ’Til Midnight an engrossing, multifaceted story.” –Midwest Book Review

Read more and watch the book trailer: http://bernarddillard.com/new-author

 

 


 

Chapter Excerpt: Two ‘Til Midnight: A Novel by Bernard L. Dillard

 

“I don’t know. It just seemed wrong to me. I knew Schmidt wasn’t all there sometimes, but I never thought it would come to this.”

“Well, honey, I’m glad you spoke up. That wasn’t right.” She adjusted her nightgown and took one last look at the bathroom mirror before turning in. “You did the right thing.”

George was hesitant to accept her praise. “I hope so. It just didn’t feel like me. It was like I wasn’t myself. It’s hard to explain. At the moment, I just felt like I had to step in and say something. Honestly, Schmidt didn’t seem like himself. Something had to be controlling him. If I hadn’t said anything, I really think he woulda shot the kid.”

“Things were going that bad?”

“Only because Schmidt kept pushing the issue. And the way he looked at me when I told him that was enough. He just had a different face.” He spooned her and placed his arm around her stomach. His breath was a little tart, but she had gotten used to it.

“Imagine if you hadn’t spoken up and said anything. It might be a different story on the television. It may have been one of those stories again. Another one shot dead where the cop claims that he felt threatened.”

“It’s just not right, baby. I’ve seen all kinds of stuff on the beat. I feel sort of in a bubble because I know the violence will never probably happen to me and probably not you either since we’re both lily white.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

Intimate Conversation with Michele Nicole Mitchell

Michele Nicole was born in Trinidad, West Indies and raised in Queens Village, NY. She left New York in 2001 to attend North Carolina Central University where she graduated. She stayed in North Carolina for eleven years and eventually relocated to Atlanta, GA to be closer to family. She is a servant leader, entrepreneur, photographer and traveler. She is also the author of the book Are You Done With Him?


BPM: Please share something our readers wouldn’t know about you.

I will start with my name. I am Michele Nicole Mitchell. I was born in Trinidad, West Indies. I came to the United State when I was about 7or 8 years old. My favorite thing to do is travel and I love to cook. I value gathering folks at my home once a quarter and having transparent conversations with women of different ages and experiences so we can eat, fellowship, pray, cry, laugh and pour into each other. My objective is to live for when I leave, so I pour out and that is the best receiving I can ever get.

I am a Believer, who was struggling with un-belief. Out of desperation I became bold enough to ask God to teach me to trust Him. What I did not prepare for was the process He would use to bring it to pass. Let me tell you something, when you ask God to teach you, you do NOT get to choose the HOW.

BPM: Tell us about your first published book. What was the journey like?
The first published book was a coming of age experience. It was about a one night stand that lasted for 3 years. I compromised my integrity and standards in the hopes of getting a man that was emotionally wounded, unavailable and chose not to commit to loving himself, to see my value, worth and love me. I discovered my sexual self at his expense and also discovered that you cannot heal someone who desires to stay broken. The journey was painfully therapeutic. It caused me to see and accept the part I played in my own demise.

BPM: Introduce us to your most recent work.  
My most recent work is entitled Stripped For Greater: Walk By Faith. It is a very transparent and honest book. I am a Believer, that was struggling with un-belief. Out of desperation I became bold enough to ask God to teach me to trust Him. What I did not prepare for was the process He would use to bring it to pass. This book shares with its readers the process and series of life events that occurred that taught me how to Trust God, even when I felt like I could not Trace God. I am working with my distributors to make the book available for electronic devices.

Watch the Stripped For Greater Video Book Trailer (The How) – https://youtu.be/Z3tdtcNpH7U


BPM: Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

When you ask God to teach you to trust Him, you do NOT get to choose the HOW. As I began to learn to trust God during my season of un-belief, there were encounters with individuals that showed me how much He loved me and how far He would go to protect me. In my emotional state of “functioning broken”, He still used me to help others and meet their need at our point of meeting. My lack of trusting God and being a believer that was struggling with un-belief never stood in His way of taking care of me, it stood in my way of surrendering to Him.

BPM: Is writing easy for you? Do you feel lonely being a writer during the creative process?
Writing is not easy for me to do, but it is not difficult. What I mean by that is that for me writing is therapeutic and confrontational. I write from my perspective but as I write I am reminded that I am not the only one that was part of the event. That those who played their part in the event not only did I have an encounter with them but they had an encounter with me. As I mature as a writer I am understanding that there is more than one perspective and more than one experience. Being a writer that is learning the value of understanding that transparency changes lives, writing, just like God, causes me to stop looking out of a window and start looking into a mirror.

I do not feel lonely during the creative process but I do feel the weight of understanding that it is important to convey the moment in a simple relatable way so someone who reads it can honestly say “its not just me”.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Raves and Reviews: Survival Math by Mitchell S. Jackson

Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson

An electrifying, dazzlingly written reckoning and an essential addition to the national conversation about race and class, Survival Math takes its name from the calculations award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson made to survive the Portland, Oregon of his youth.

This dynamic book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, composite fathers, the concept of “hustle,” and the destructive power of addiction—all framed within the story of Jackson, his family, and his community. Lauded for its breathtaking pace, its tender portrayals, its stark candor, and its luminous style, Survival Math reveals on every page the searching intellect and originality of its author.

The primary narrative, focused on understanding the antecedents of Jackson’s family’s experience, is complemented by poems composed from historical American documents as well as survivor files, which feature photographs and riveting short narratives of several of Jackson’s male relatives.

The sum of Survival Math’s parts is a highly original whole, one that reflects on the exigencies—over generations—that have shaped the lives of so many disenfranchised Americans. As essential as it is beautiful, as real as it is artful, Mitchell S. Jackson’s nonfiction debut is a singular achievement, not to be missed.

 

 

Raves and Reviews

 

“[A] vibrant memoir of race, violence, family, and manhood…Jackson recognizes there is too much for one conventional form, and his various storytelling methods imbue the book with an unpredictable dexterity. It is sharp and unshrinking in depictions of his life, his relatives (blood kin and otherwise), and his Pacific Northwest hometown, which serves as both inescapable character and villain…It’s Jackson’s history, but it’s also a microcosm of too many black men struggling both against their worst instincts, and a society that often leaves them with too few alternatives…His virtuosic wail of a book reminds us that for a black person in America, it can never be that easy.”
—Boston Globe

 

““While never shirking from the various harms his family members inflict on themselves and each other, Jackson consistently writes about them, and truly all the people we encounter, from a place of grace…One of the book’s many treasures is Jackson’s attentiveness to providing historical context for the forces shaping his family and the place they call home…Jackson’s searing intelligence is on full display throughout the work, but it is particularly notable when he takes on the problems of gentrification, white supremacy, and corporations that gain their wealth off the bodies of the poor. Equally striking is the author’s unflinching commitment to turn his critical eye inward…a spellbinding narrative.”
—NPR.org

 

“A vulnerable, sobering look at Jackson’s life and beyond, in all its tragedies, burdens and faults…Jackson dissects the darker realities of his hometown [and] his explorations feel strikingly unguarded.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

 

“Exuberant maximalism is [Jackson’s] mode … The detours recall the hectic narrative nonfiction of the ’90s and early aughts, by writers like Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace.”
—The New York Times

 

“[Survival Math is] dense and rich, alternately blunt and tender, with references that run the gamut from Snoop Dogg to Adam Smith … in recalling his own struggle, what Jackson has created is a monument to the marginalized—and it’s every bit as harrowing and beautiful as its architect’s life.”
—Willamette Week

 

“In prose that is both poetic and brutally honest, Jackson [explores] his family’s story as a lens into the history of his community. Themes like fatherhood, addiction, sex work, national pride, prison, race and violence against women can feel broad and universal, and Jackson expertly grounds these experiences within America’s legacy, via the inclusion of thoroughly-researched historical and religious references. And yet Survival Math is also deeply personal…Jackson powerfully disrupts various binaries, showing how academic scholarship and accessible writing can merge, how empathy and accountability can overlap, how self and social critique are interconnected.”
—Salon.com

 

“Beyond his own past, Jackson juxtaposes his history with those of his male relatives to illustrate the hardships of class and race on a generational level, creating a timely narrative centered around what it takes to survive in America.”
—Time, 11 New Books to Read this March

 

“Jackson, the author of the novel The Residue Years, writes about his own childhood in Portland, Ore., and the entrenched racism and economic inequality that shaped his community. Along the way, he interweaves poems and narratives from members of his family. As Jackson puts it in his author’s note, “Our stories of survival are inseparable from the ever-fraught history of America.””
—New York Times, 12 New Books to Watch for in March

 

“Jackson revisits his early years in a black Portland neighborhood, telling the stories of his struggling family members and analyzing the marginalizing cultural forces around them.”
—Entertaintment Weekly, 20 new books to read in March

 

“Vivid and unflinching … Mitchell’s memoir in essays chronicles the struggles of friends and family with drugs, racism, violence, and hopelessness and puts a face on the cyclical nature of poverty.”
—Boston Globe, Most Anticipated Books of 2019

 

“An extensive and illuminating look at the city of [Jackson’s] childhood, exploring issues like sex, violence, addiction, community, and the toll this takes on a person’s life.
—Buzzfeed, Most Anticipated Books of 2019

 

“This is more than Jackson’s story, and as he traces his great-grandparents’ exodus from Alabama to Portland and the subsequent lives of his relatives…he captures the cyclical nature of poverty and neglect…The prose is a stunning mix of internal monologue and historical and religious references that he incorporates to tell his story…Thanks to Jackson’s fresh voice, this powerful autobiography shines an important light on the generational problems of America’s oft-forgotten urban communities.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred

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Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

 

*Named a Best Book of 2018 by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed (Nonfiction), The Undefeated, Library Journal (Biography/Memoirs), The Washington Post (Nonfiction), Southern Living (Southern), Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times Critics*

In this powerful, provocative, and universally lauded memoir—winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal and finalist for the Kirkus Prize—genre-bending essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon “provocatively meditates on his trauma growing up as a black man, and in turn crafts an essential polemic against American moral rot” (Entertainment Weekly).

In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to time in New York as a college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. Heavy is a “gorgeous, gutting…generous” (The New York Times) memoir that combines personal stories with piercing intellect to reflect both on the strife of American society and on Laymon’s experiences with abuse. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, he asks us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

“A book for people who appreciated Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family through years of haunting implosions and long reverberations. “You won’t be able to put [this memoir] down…It is packed with reminders of how black dreams get skewed and deferred, yet are also pregnant with the possibility that a kind of redemption may lie in intimate grappling with black realities” (The Atlantic).

Purchase Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

 

Editorial Reviews for Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

“Heavy is a gorgeous, gutting book that’s fueled by candor yet freighted with ambivalence. It’s full of devotion and betrayal, euphoria and anguish, tender embraces and rough abuse…the liberation on offer doesn’t feel light and unburdened; it feels heavy like the title, and heavy like the truth…Salvation would feel too weightless—as if [Laymon] could forget who he is and where he has been. This generous, searching book explores all the forces that can stop even the most buoyant hopes from ever leaving the ground.”
—New York Times

“With echoes of Roxane Gay and John Edgar Wideman, Laymon defiantly exposes the ‘aches and changes’ of growing up black in this raw, cathartic memoir reckoning with his turbulent Mississippi childhood, adolescent obesity, and the white gaze.”
—O Magazine

“[Heavy] take[s] on the important work of exposing the damage done to America, especially its black population, by the failure to confront the myths, half-truths, and lies at the foundation of the success stories that the nation worships. In the process, Laymon … dramatize[s] a very different route to victory: the quest to forge a self by speaking hard truths, resisting exploitation, and absorbing with grace the cost of being black in America while struggling to live a life of virtue…You won’t be able to put [this memoir] down, but not because [it is] breezy reading. [It is], in Laymon’s multilayered word, heavy—packed with reminders of how black dreams get skewed and deferred yet are also pregnant with the possibility that a kind of redemption may lie in intimate grappling with black realities.”
—The Atlantic

“Heavy is one of the most important and intense books of the year because of the unyielding, profoundly original and utterly heartbreaking way it addresses and undermines expectations for what exactly it’s like to possess and make use of a male black body in America … the book thunders as an indictment of hope, a condemnation of anyone ever looking forward.”
—LA Times

“Staggering … Laymon lays out his life with startling introspection. Heavy is comforting in its familiarity, yet exacting in its originality … Laymon subtitled his book, ‘An American Memoir,’ and that’s more than a grandiose proclamation. He is a son of this nation whose soil is stained with the blood and sweat of his ancestors. In a country both deserving of his love and hate, Laymon is distinctly American. Like the woman who raised him and the woman who raised her, he carries that weight, finding uplift from sorrow and shelter from the storms that batter black bodies.”
—Boston Globe

“Heavy is a compelling record of American violence and family violence, and the wide, rutted embrace of family love … Kiese Laymon is a star in the American literary firmament, with a voice that is courageous, honest, loving, and singularly beautiful. Heavy is at once a paean to the Deep South, a condemnation of our fat-averse culture, and a brilliantly rendered memoir of growing up black, and bookish, and entangled in a family that is as challenging as it is grounding.”
—NPR.org

“Weight is both unavoidably corporeal and a load-bearing metaphor in novelist-essayist Kiese Laymon’s sharp, (self-)lacerating memoir, addressed to the single teen mom turned professor who raised him to become exceptional…a deeply personal book, where race, class, and the scars of sexual violence are front and center.”
—New York Magazine

“Laymon’s memoir is a reckoning, pulling from his own experience growing up poor and black in Jackson, Mississippi, and tracking the most influential relationships, for better or worse, of his life: with his brilliant but struggling single mother, his loving grandma, his body and the ways he nurtures and punishes it, his education and creativity, and the white privilege that drives the world around him…with shrewd analysis, sharp wit, and great vulnerability — Laymon forces the reader to fully consider the effects of the nation’s inability to reconcile its pride and ambition with its shameful history.”
—Buzzfeed

“Laymon examines his relationship with his mother growing up as a black man in the South, exploring how racial violence suffered by both impacts his physical and emotional selves.”
—Time

“Spectacular … So artfully crafted, miraculously personal, and continuously disarming, this is, at its essence, powerful writing about the power of writing.”
—Booklist, starred

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