Read Kiese Laymon

On December 11, 2014, in Book Review, Discrimination, Diversity, Heather Bussing, HRExaminer, by Heather Bussing

The most powerful book I read in 2014 was Keise Laymon’s How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America.Kiese Laymon

Laymon’s writing is piercing. He says the things that people aren’t allowed to say. Even better, he doesn’t tell you what it’s like; he shows you. He paints with words.

The essays are social, political, and intensely personal. You will come away with a better understanding of what it is like to be Black in America. And if you can open yourself to what he has to say, it will change how you move through the world. Please read this book.

Here is a little Kiese Laymon to get you started.

Did you hug yourself this morning?

Mama, you always say that. How am I supposed to hug myself?

You hug yourself by not allowing haters to distract you and by believing in yourself. You hug yourself by practicing the speech of respectability.

Oh, lord. Mama, some people theorize about the politics of respectability but the crazy thing is how that’s literally your theme music. How are you gonna sing your own theme music, though? I don’t care about the speech of respectability. Respectability ain’t got nothing to do with me.

Don’t say “ain’t got” Kie.

Or what?

Or nothing. Just don’t say “ain’t got.”

Nah, I’m serious. Or what? I know the language, Mama. You know I know the language. I know the rules. I know how to break and bend the rules, too. Plus, who would win in a contest between “doesn’t have” and “ain’t got”?

It depends on the judges.

Mama, how have we been having the same conversation about language for thirty years?

You are a grown man, but you’re still a black boy from Mississippi to people that want to hurt you. Speaking and writing in a respectable way is just one small way to protect yourself. How do you not understand this?

Excerpt from Hey Mama by Kiese Laymon in Guernica Magazine. Follow Kiese Laymon on Twitter @KieseLaymon

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