Kiese Laymon is the author of the novel Long Division and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. He is also the author of the memoir Heavy, winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, and Audible’s Audiobook of the Year.
Foreword to a collection of personal narratives by the junior class at New Orleans’s George Washington Carver High School.
I’ve read the essays in this book at least ten times each, not because I have to, but because I don’t think there is another book like it in the world. The really terrifying thing is that I need this book even more now than I needed it as an eleventh grader. If every American book published in 2018 were written to the eleventh grade at Carver High School in New Orleans, the world would be less violent. If every American book published in 2018 were written by eleventh graders at Carver, the world would be more loving. Though these young folks are rarely written to in American literature, they know who they are. And they know who the folks are who refuse to see all of their complexity. “We are rare and powerful,” the younger writers tell us in the introduction.
The introduction to a previously unpublished poem by Margaret Walker.
Nearly twenty years after her death and seventy-five years after the publication of For My People, this magazine sent me a previously unpublished poem of Walker’s. The poem, “An Elegiac Valedictory,” is a work that remembers, with comic clarity, the words, food, time, and space she shared with the likes of Toni Cade Bambara, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Audre Lorde.
The truth is, I had no intention of making a life out of writing until I read an article on OutKast by a writer from my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. So when the Oxford American asked me to write about OutKast for their Georgia Music issue, I knew I needed to talk with Charlie Braxton before crafting a word.
Grandmama’s stank was root and residue of black Southern poverty, and devalued black Southern labor, black Southern excellence, black Southern imagination, and black Southern woman magic. This was the stank from whence black Southern life, love, and labor came. I didn’t fully understand or feel inspired by Grandmama’s stank or freshness until I heard the albums ATLiens and Aquemini from those Georgia-based artists called OutKast.