Kiese Laymon is an American writer, editor and a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi. Author of Long Division and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, Laymon's 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, as well as featured pieces written by guest contributors. Laymon has written essays and stories for numerous online publications, including his work as a contributing editor at Gawker and frequent posts to ESPN.com.
Born and raised in Mississippi, Laymon earned his Bachelor of Arts at Oberlin College, and his Masters in Fine Arts at Indiana University. He also attended Jackson State University, where his mother worked as a political science professor, and Millsaps College, where he was suspended for a year after taking a library book without checking it out. His suspension followed ongoing criticism from the administration, including president George Harmon, who believed his controversial pieces on race in the school newspaper adversely affected campus and alumni relations. Laymon detailed his experience of racism at Millsaps, and as a coming-of-age black man in Mississippi, in his essay for Gawker, "How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America." The essay was widely read and attracted both negative and positive comments on his portrayal of his racial experiences. "How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others" was eventually included in his book of autobiographical essays by the same name.
While living and writing in upstate New York, as a professor of Vassar College, Laymon's refusal to omit explicit aspects of Long Division that explore racial politics prolonged negotiations with a major publishing group. Laymon's books were eventually picked up by the independent publisher Agate Publishing, which released his debut novel in June 2013. In addition to Laymon's satirical time-travel novel "Long Division," his book of autobiographical essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America was published by Agate in August 2013. He has two books, a novel called And So On and a book called Heavy forthcoming from Scribner.
Laymon was an associate professor of English and Africana Studies at Vassar College before being hired as a professor in the Creative Writing MFA at the University of Mississippi.
Long Division was named one of the Best of 2013 by a number of publications, including Buzzfeed, The Believer, Salon, Guernica, Contemporary Literature, Mosaic Magazine, Library Journal, Chicago Tribune and the Crunk Feminist Collective. It was also short-listed for the Believer Book Award, the Ernest Gaines Fiction Award, and the Morning News Tournament of Books. It won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing on August 24. Long Division garnered positive reviews from all of the "big three" advance review outlets—Kirkus, Library Journal, and Booklist.
Additionally, literary journals such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review, and the Boston Review praised the novel. Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress and The Washington Post wrote that "If Laymon’s novel runs into some plotting problems over the course of its run, it succeeds in doing something more emotionally moving, producing a series of crystalline moments when City comes to a clearer understanding of the world he lives in–and the kind of man he wants to be in it." Novelist, professor, and social commentator Roxane Gay, in a piece for The Nation, called Long Division "[an] ambitious novel, and though it is raw and flawed, it is the most exciting book I’ve read all year. There’s nothing like it, both in terms of the scope of what the book tackles and the writing’s Afro Surrealist energy." In 2014, the novel was chosen for The Morning News Tournament of Books, but was eliminated in the first round by The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt in a verdict rendered by Hector Tobar. Three essays in "How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America" have been included in the Best American series, the Best of Net award, and the Atlantic's Best Essays of 2013.
- Long Division (novel; June 2013)
- How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America (essays; August 2013)
- Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013 (anthology; October 2013)
- Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations (anthology; November 2013)
- The Fire This Time (anthology; August 2016)
- The Oliver Stone Experience (biography September 2016)
- Scratch (anthology January 2017)
Published essays and articles
- “The Sport of American Responsibility." (ESPN.com. ESPN, 25 September 2012)
- "The Anniversary: Looking Up at Tupac Shakur" (Esquire.com; September 2012)
- “Living Under the Gun.” (NPR.com. National Public Radio, 17 October 2012)
- "When Hating Kobe Bryant Goes Wrong" (ESPN.com; February 2013)
- "Our Kind of Ridiculous" (Gawker Media; March 2013)
- "This Was 1993: 20 Years Ago I Heard The Perfect Rap Song.” (NPR. National Public Radio. 17 April 2013)
- "You Are the Second Person" (Guernica, June 2013)
- "The Worst of White Folks" (Gawker Media; July 2013)
- "Has America Progressed" (ESPN.com. ESPN 7 June 2013)
- "D'Andre Brown's Basketball Dream" ESPN.com. ESPN 21 August 2013
- "On Trayvon Martin, Black Manhood and Love" (Colorlines January 2014)
- "Hey Mama" (Guernica", (March 2014)
- "This Little Light of Ours" (Guernica, May 2014))
- "My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK" (Gawker Media; November 2014)
- "Black churches taught us to forgive white people. We learned to shame ourselves" (The Guardian, June 2015)
- "How They Do in Oxford" (ESPN.com, October 2015)
- "Da Art of Storytellin' (a Prequel)" (The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward, August 2016)
- Long Division (Tantor Audio, October 2013)
- Kiese Laymon. "My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK". Gawker. Gawker Media. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
- Kiese Laymon. "Black churches taught us to forgive white people. We learned to shame ourselves". the Guardian. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
- "The allure of Ole Miss football". ESPN.com. Retrieved January 12, 2016.