All events are free and take place at UMMA unless otherwise noted.

Apr 15
Zoom Event / Virtual Event

Virtual Zell Visiting Writers Series: Kiese Laymon, ​Hopwood Awards Distinguished Writer in Fiction & Memoir

The Zell Visiting Writers Series is virtual this winter on Zoom. Click here to login (no pre-registration needed).

Kiese Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon’s bestselling memoir, Heavy: An American Memoir, won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media, and was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times. The audiobook, read by the author, was named the Audible 2018 Audiobook of the Year. Heavy was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction and the Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction. It was named a best book of 2018 by the New York TimesPublishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly

Three essays from Laymon’s newly reissued book of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, were selected for inclusion in the Best American series and The Atlantic’s best essays. Laymon’s debut novel, Long Division, which will be reissued in 2021, was honored with the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and was shortlisted for a number of other awards, including The Believer Book Award and the Ernest J. Gaines Fiction Award. 

Laymon is a Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair and Oxford American. He has written for the New York TimesEsquire, VSB, ESPN The MagazineParis Review, NPR, ColorlinesThe Los Angeles TimesThe GuardianEbonyGuernica, FaderTravel & Leisure, Lit Hub, and many others. A graduate of Oberlin College, he holds an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. He is the Hubert H. McAlexander Chair of English at the University of Mississippi, and recipient of 2020-2021 Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard. Laymon is at work on several new projects, including the long poem, Good God, the horror novel, And So On, the children’s book, City Summer, Country Summer and the film Heavy: An American Memoir. He is the founder of The Catherine Coleman Literary Arts and Justice Initiative, a program aimed at getting Mississippi kids and their parents, more comfortable reading, writing, revising and sharing.

For any questions about the event or to share accommodation needs, please email and — we are eager to help ensure that this event is inclusive to you. Copies of the readings and live, high quality auto-captions/transcriptions will be provided.

UMMA is pleased to be the site for the  Zell Visiting Writers Series, which brings outstanding writers each semester. The Series is made possible through a generous gift from U-M alumna Helen Zell (AB ’64, LLDHon ’13). For more information, please visit the Zell Visiting Writers Series webpage.