Released earlier this year, Long Division is Kiese Laymon’s debut novel. After attending his author event and book signing shortly after the release, I became a fan. Something about him seemed very genuine. He keeps it real, or as the characters in this book would say, he keeps it 100.
The book is set in Mississippi in 3 different decades (2013, 1985, 1964) and being told from the perspective of a teenage boy named City. As can be expected when listening in on the conversation of teenagers, I found myself becoming uninterested at times. But with City himself being very intelligent and very funny, I wanted to keep reading.
As City travels between decades, he takes note of the differences between past and present with observations like this, “What happened to real actors and comedians? On all these stations, you see people you would see at the mall fighting. And when did McDonalds start using black folks in commercials?” I thought it was clever on the part of Laymon and was even trying to think back on the way the changes had occurred over the course of time.
It may seem cliché that if you set a story in the 1960’s and you’re in Mississippi, you have to touch on the obvious, race relations. But this book does and it does in numerous ways which are captured through City's relationships with his grandmother, friends, teachers and uncle to name a few.
This book made me feel all kind of ways. I was particularly uncomfortable with a few liberties taken by the author with one of the characters. But overall, since I was the same age as the main character in 2 of the 3 time periods, I found the relatability of it enjoyable.
Laymon also released a second book this year (How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America) and is currently a professor at Vassar College in New York.
|My autographed copy of Long Division.|