Kiese Laymon was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. A Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi, Laymon is the author of the acclaimed novel Long Division and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. Laymon has written essays, stories and reviews for numerous publications including Esquire, ESPN the Magazine, Colorlines, NPR, LitHub, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, PEN Journal, Oxford American, The Best American Series, Ebony and Guernica. Laymon was selected a member of the Root 100 in 2013 and 2014 and Ebony Magazine Power 100 in 2015. He has two books forthcoming, including a memoir called Heavy and the novel called And So On which can be expected in 2017, both from Scribner.
COG: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a superhero, an emcee and basketball player.
COG: How did you become you instead?
I had a mama who made me write and revise or she'd whup my ass.
COG: Fave lesser-known hero (personal or fictional)?
COG: What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your work; the least?
First sentences are enjoyable. Last sentences aren't.
COG: If you were a hybrid, what would your two halves be?
Half loving, half billionaire.
COG: Describe a teacher, student or colleague you hated (or hate, you big meanie); why?
Hated this English teacher who invented gaslighting. He loved to harm us in ways only he could soothe.
COG: In desktop publishing, a character tag is embedded code defining the style of a word or phrase. But in the literary lexicon, “character tags” refer to fictional characters’ habits, catch phrases or other distinguishing marks: Yoda’s syntax. Hello Kitty’s bow. Clint Eastwood’s rugged squint. What’s your character tag?
I roll my big eyes a lot. A lot.
COG: What’s the last thing that made you laugh, cry or cuss?
Trump calling Mexicans "bad hombres."
COG: Describe your ideal road trip.
I'd drive ocean to ocean from South Carolina to California with my boo boo.
COG: What problem, large or small, are you hell-bent on solving?