I’d never heard of Van Lathan Jr. before faintingviolet asked me to return his memoir to the library for her. As I’m wont to do, I read the first few chapters the night before I returned it, and was hooked and had to take it out for myself.
The title (and first few chapters) lead one to believe this book is about diets and food and all the usual struggles people face in trying to get healthy. And part of this memoir is about Lathan coming to a place where he realizes the weight he’s comfortable at, and how he can combat the genetics/environmental/emotional mountains that lead to him not being comfortable. But to me, talking about diets and food comas are really his vehicle for a much deeper conversation, that of us being able to look at the hard parts of ourselves and our lives and talking about them honestly.
I knew nothing about him going in, but I feel like I was given the chance to see deeply into his soul by the end of this book, and I found myself wanting to reach out a comforting hand to him so many times throughout these chapters. He’s frank and open about his personal struggles with anxiety and depression, and seamlessly connects this to the generational trauma and fatigue that is simply part and parcel of being a Black person in the US.
Lathan’s prose is easy and simple, with enough humor to balance his delving into the depths of his most difficult moments. It’s a fine tightrope to walk, and he does it beautifully.
My personal favorite chapter was Lathan explaining his journey of grief after his father passed away, and how he had seen his favorite football player play a perfect game only twelve hours after finding out his father had died. Lathan wanted to be like that when his father passed, but found that grief had a profound effect on him. He could not be stoic and professional and perfect under its weight. He needed to cry and to take time and sit with himself alone. And it did not mean he failed at grieving, it simply meant he grieved in his own way. Through this process, and many like it, Lathan espouses that the best thing we can all do as a culture, is to be honest about our feelings.
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