A Year in Reading: Kiese Laymon

December 12, 2016 | 1

I was lucky enough to judge some major nonfiction contests this year, so I feel like I’m bleeding and breathing hard cover books more than usual. Still, it was the stuff I read online in magazines, or poems I heard in person that made my heart quake this year. I don’t know that I read more moving and brilliantly constructed pieces online this year than Morgan Parker’s, “How To Stay Sane While Black” or Mychal Denzel Smith’s “Black Boy Literary Survival Kit” or Eve Ewing’s “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Zandria Robinson’sListening for the Country” made me afraid to write, as did Jesmyn Ward’s new novel. Nabila Lovelace and Aziza Barnes organized the most incredible poetry experience of my life. They invited some of the dopest black poets in the country to give readings in Oxford, Tuscaloosa, and New Orleans in something they called “The Conversation.” Jerriod Avant read the most breathtaking and life-giving poem I’ve ever heard at a little place in Oxford called the Shelter. I think we sometimes forget how much genius writing comes out of local papers in this country from young writers. Sierra Mannie proved to me again that she might be the most brilliant young journalist in the country with her piece in the Jackson Free Press on education in juvenile detention centers called “Chronically Absent.”

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Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

is the author Long Division, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America and the forthcoming memoir from Scribner, Heavy.