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Black Recovery Stories addressing individual and collective well-being

“Heavy”, although addressed to Laymon’s mother, also aims at a broader horizon: it is subtitled “An American Memoir”. Throughout the book, Laymon details the lies he and his mother told each other – lies he quelled through restrictive eating, excessive exercise, and gambling. But telling the truth doesn’t cure him. Instead, he follows the lead of rappers like MC Lyte and Scarface, who, to his understanding, have described addiction and recovery “not as sites but as cycles.” Where Allen’s memoir ends with his glorious sobriety, Laymon only gives us victory to reverse it. Towards the end of the book, he and his mother leave a casino together after a cathartic exchange. Laymon explains, “This is what you all want in these books. “Look, it’s over, we’ve had the conversation we’ve been waiting for all of our lives. ” [casino], because it is much more how my life has been and will be. It’s not defeatist, he says – “it just means that the stories of progress they are making in all of our lives have not been written down by people who love us inside.” He refuses to reproduce this kind of success story, this sort of “American memory” and risk shaming readers whose lives do not conform to this scenario.

But the false victory isn’t the only American thing in the book. Laymon is also invested in the national revival. He publishes a thwarted prophecy: “We will find churches, synagogues, mosques and porches dedicated to the love, liberation, memories and imagination of black children. Or, he writes, we won’t: Instead, “we’ll lie like Americans lie.” We will die like Americans die. He ties his recovery to that of the larger group with honest uncertainty – he doesn’t even know if he may get better, no matter what his efforts might mean for the nation as a whole. But he must try. As he tells me, “I don’t think anything better is going to happen in this world unless something better happens in my relationship with my mom. “

Reading and speaking with Laymon, one comes to think that Malcolm X – a figure who during his extremely short life became sober, converted to Islam, and led a movement – is plus the best icon of black recuperation power. . What Laymon instead relays is a lesson from 1970s black feminists such as writer Toni Cade Bambara (whom he quotes in the epigraph to “Heavy”), who traced the roots of social change in relationships. darlings – prioritizing family and community over direct combat with the white world – and Bambara’s contemporary, Angela Davis, who reminds us that “freedom is a constant struggle”. This elastic, relational and long-term approach to recovery is adapted to a culture of contemporary movement defined by a heavy heritage: the knowledge that the question “if not now, when?” Was also asked by some of the brightest and most daring members of previous generations, whose gains in fair housing, health care, education and voting were not only unfinished, but were often actively reversed. This recognition can be depressing; but it could also serve as a lovingly realistic form of group personal care. He recognizes that individuals, like nations, do not simply recover; they are always recovering – work with vigilance and vulnerability in the service of a future that they might not live to see.

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