2024 SPECIAL GUEST
Photo: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Kiese Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi, and the Libbie Sheam Moody Professor of English and Creative Writing at Rice University. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and holds an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. He is the author of the novel Long Division (2013), which won the NAACP Image Award for fiction and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and was shortlisted for a number of other awards, including The Believer Book Award, the Morning News Tournament of Books, and the Ernest J. Gaines Fiction Award. A television adaptation of Long Division is forthcoming from Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Productions. His essay collection. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America (2013; expanded ed., 2020), was named a notable book by the New York Times. Laymon’s bestselling memoir, Heavy: An American Memoir (2018), won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, the Barnes and Noble Discovery Award, and the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media. It was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times, and was named a best book of 2018 by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed, the Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly. The audiobook, read by the author, was named the Audible 2018 Audiobook of the Year. Laymon is the recipient of 2020-2021 Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard. He is at work on the books Good God, and City Summer, Country Summer, and a number of other film and television projects. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, NPR, Colorlines, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Ebony, Guernica, The Oxford American, Lit Hub, and Gawker. He is the founder of The Catherine Coleman Literary Arts and Justice Initiative, a program based at the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University, aimed at aiding young people in Jackson get more comfortable reading, writing, revising, and sharing on their on their own terms, in their own communities. Kiese Laymon was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2022.