Title: Long Division
Author: Kiese Laymon
Genre: Fiction / coming of age
Rating: 4 out of 5
Through ninth grade black Mississippian narrator City Coldson, Laymon takes on a lot here: race issues (and there are a lot of separate issues this book covers, inter- as well as intra-race ), but there are also strong themes of sexuality and gender–notions of masculinity, different types of love, homophobia–and he also covers religion and some other topics I’m probably forgetting. There are parts that are very funny (I don’t often laugh out loud at things I’m reading, but in this case I did). But it wasn’t just laugh-a-minute; Laymon had me feeling completely infuriated, helpless, and sickened on City’s behalf (for instance, the first encounter with Pot Belly). All the chracters were pretty great; even the peripherals were drawn in a way that gave me a really good picture.
There’s also the time travel element, which was an interesting device for comparing Mississippi race relations between the 1960s, 1980s, and 2010s. But the time travel story didn’t quite add up for me, and it seemed to distract me more than I enjoyed it. Then again, I haven’t read the book three times so perhaps, according to City’s school principal, I haven’t really read it at all.
Overall I really liked this book, I’d recommend it to most people. I really enjoyed City’s narration and there is a lot to like here. I’ll be keeping my eye out for more Kiese Laymon–in the meantime, his blog.