How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America

Scribner. Nov. 2020. 176p. ISBN 9781982170820. pap. $16.. SOC SCI
Award-winning author Laymon (English, Univ. of Mississippi; Long Division) updates the previous edition of this profound work with reflections on being a Black man in America and living, in his words, like you're always on parole. For him, this means the constant fear of being pulled over, handcuffed, and having guns drawn on him--all of which Laymon has experienced, and he shares those transformative moments in piercing prose. "I am not afraid of death. I am afraid of being killed while dreaming." Taking us from past to present, the author tells of his childhood in Jackson, MS, and challenges the meanings of freedom and courage, especially living in a society where Black men are seen as a threat. Laymon brings vulnerability to each page, whether talking about the influence of OutKast and Southern hip-hop on his life, being told that he's not like other Black people, or battling personal demons on the path to becoming a published writer. While the book is strong as a whole, recollections of his Mama and Grandmama, who wanted better for him, are especially poignant.
VERDICT Moving and meditative, this reckoning on Blackness, manhood, and self adds to Laymon's legacy as an influential writer.
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