Kiese Laymon is a black southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University before graduating from Oberlin College. He earned an MFA from Indiana University and is the author of the novel, Long Division  and a collection of essays,  How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. Laymon is a contributing editor at gawker.com. Long Division was named one of the Best of 2013 by a number of publications, including Buzzfeed, The Believer, Salon, Guernica, Mosaic Magazine, Chicago Tribune and the Crunk Feminist Collective. Laymon has written essays and stories for numerous publications including Esquire, ESPN.com, Colorlines, NPR, Gawker, Truthout.com, Longman’s Hip Hop Reader, The Best American Non-required Reading, Guernica, Mythium and Politics and Culture. Laymon is currently at work on a new novel “…” and funky memoir called 309. He is an Associate Professor of English at Vassar College.

Print Interviews:

Paris Review:


Truth Out:


The Nation:




The Rumpus:


Vassar Chronicle:






School Library Journal:


Audio Interviews:

Writers Corner


Book Talk




Library Journal:


Video Interviews:

Crunk Feminist Collective


Franklin Center at Duke:


Regina Bradley: Outkasted Conversations


For bookings, please email emredden@vassar.edu

17 Responses to About

  1. Gary Matthews says:

    Kiese, wow, glad to see you pop back up, as if you ever truly went away. But I lost sight of you when you went to Oberlin. I had tucked those moments–you, Andrew Libby, Purple and White, that whole shit storm of Millsaps–deep into the recesses of my mind. A personal mythology. Glad to see you’re doing well.

    Alright, peace for now

  2. Robert says:


    I just read your essay on Gawker and I wanted to reach out to you with an internet-high five.
    The magic of your ability lies in being able to be spiritually structured enough to form a cogent and nuanced narrative illustrating the silent violence that perpetuates itself not least of which by obliviating conscious assessment of it’s existence, to say nothing of disallowing the creation of the psychic space for reflection upon its effects and underpinnings.

    Your meditations upon weaponry is particularly poignant to me as I know many who would wish for a simpler social structure whereupon we could resolve these issues with spears, like olden days. As you mention, it is a flaccid and fallacious fantasy.


  3. Tree Turtle says:

    Thank you for your incisive prose on http://www.gawker.com. You put the reality of American violence into a deeply considered and fresh perspective. I can’t wait for your novel to appear.

  4. Sahjo Brown says:

    Thank you for speaking your truth.

  5. Lonnie says:

    Just read your piece on Gawker and was so moved. I grew up in Mississippi as well and am so happy to not be there. You’re crazy talented, looking forward to more.

  6. Dee Dee says:

    I just read your essay on Gawker and have to thank you for writing it – I’m biracial with a white father and black mother. At almost 40, I think I’ve seen everything and then I wake up each day and see more horror stories about how much this country still hates so many of its citizens.

    I’m looking forward to reading whatever you choose to put out here for us. And I know I said it, but thanks.

  7. Diedre Faith Houchen says:

    Excellent essay @ Gawker. Big up.

  8. Emma says:

    Like others, I read your essay from Gawker and it moved me. If writing can be visceral and quiet at the same time, you’ve done it. I find myself thinking about you sitting in a ditch outside your mama’s house, letting pine needles run through your fingers. The resignation and more to the point, the desolation, of that image is going to stay with me for a long time.

  9. SL Johnson says:

    WONDERFUL essay. I worked at Millsaps College from 2008-2010 in the communications department and never heard of this incident. Wow.

  10. Danyal Kim says:

    Oh man, I read “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America.” I look forward to reading your book when it comes out.

  11. kassiani says:

    I read your amazing piece on Gawker over the weekend and it has stayed with me for days. Proof positive that great writing occurs when you write what you know with truth and fearlessness.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates noted that your writing touches on “how violence works in many African-American communities, or really among communities where the options seemed relatively capped.”

    Any outsider feeling trapped – no matter the culture or country – has felt what you so eloquently put on paper.

    I look forward to reading more of your work.

  12. MaryAnn Paris says:

    I just want to say thank you for the piece “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance”. I can’t think of anything to say other than, thank you. It’s so wonderful to see the truth so beautifully and eloquently written.

  13. R.R. says:

    Hi Kiese,

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for your incredible article. My father is from inner city Memphis, where the hood exists in the same way your article describes Central Mississippi as existing without hope. Fortunately I did not grow up in these circumstances, as my mother is African, and my parents ended up having us live in an all-white area. I’ve grown up economically impoverished, despite living in a wealthy area. However, my mind and my spirit have never had to suffer the poverty of a slow death in which you understand that the world exists to kill you. I had long known about the pervasive hopelessness of the hood, both from having been there to see family, and from hearing about my father’s experiences escaping it. While trying to formulate my cultural identity, I often longed for the imaginary community I thought awaited me in Memphis; only to be disappointed by the reality that an overwhelming stagnation made it impossible for me to grow there. However, this article really crystallized the reasons why I never felt at home there. I have always been unable to accept death; I have always fought for life, even in the face of the physical death of loved ones, even in midst of slow death at the hands of family members and even in spite of incredible isolation. I know well, and have seen, the process of suffering a slow death from those around you, before being brought back to life by those same people. I want you to know that I am fighting for life. I am hoping to be able to save others, after I save myself. I refuse a slow death. If you do nothing else, know that you have helped at least one person refuse a slow death, with full knowledge of exactly what they are refusing. I choose life.

    Thank you.

  14. Elisabeth says:

    You’re a great writer. Eagerly awaiting publication of Long Division!

  15. Shhhhh says:

    I was prepared, even anticipating, to be very angry with your essay. The claim of white privilege is particularly infuriating given that white people are the majority race in North America and if only by virtue of numbers, white, European culture dominates, or used to. There is nothing inherently wrong about that. In Turkey, Turkish/Muslim culture dominates. In India, the Indian/Hindu culture is dominant. The difference between for example Turkey and the US or Canada is that minorities are marginalised as state policy. This is more the norm throughout the world with the exception of the West. Turkey has been systematically eracing the Christian minority culture and history for a hundred years, by design.

    Meanwhile, the West has developed policies of inclusion, diversity, and in the case of Canada, official multiculturalism. Positive discrimination gives minorities a hand up, in university admissions or employment. Black African Americans were the intended beneficiaries of much of this discrimination but now find they must compete with other minorities, many of whom are fairly recent, and willing, immigrants. They were not shipped in chains to the US.

    The US owes it’s African American citizens more than civil rights and positive discrimination but I’m not sure what it is. What can the US do to redeem it’s self from the grave sin of slavery? I don’t know how you would answer this question, but my answer is more of everything. African Americans should be first in line for post-secondary education. Health care should be provided free of charge to children and students. Housing should be subsidized.

    It is not the case that Black Americans are a feeble race but that a great crime was visited upon your ancestors, grandmothers alive today who were the victims, who remember, and so inform us through the exquisite story telling of their gandsons.

  16. I love your honest voice and your originality. I could make no sense of George Zimmerman and think that you offer valuable insight on the race equation. I just wish there weren’t so many guns around.

  17. Napoleon says:

    I read your piece on Tupac’s 16th anniversary and it’s just way too creative of you. Your so highly apreciated for standing for the truth. Brothers got love for you down here in Africa

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