Long Division [NOOK Book]

Overview

Long Division includes two distinct but tightly interwoven stories--one called "All Things Considered," the other "Long Division." In the first, it's March 2012: 14-year-old Citoyen "City" Coldson and his nemesis, LaVander Peeler, become the first black male duo to win the state of Mississippi's “Can You Use This Word in a Sentence” contest finals. Both boys are asked to represent Mississippi at the televised national competition. (Hours before the contest begins, City is given a book without an author called ...
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Long Division

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Overview

Long Division includes two distinct but tightly interwoven stories--one called "All Things Considered," the other "Long Division." In the first, it's March 2012: 14-year-old Citoyen "City" Coldson and his nemesis, LaVander Peeler, become the first black male duo to win the state of Mississippi's “Can You Use This Word in a Sentence” contest finals. Both boys are asked to represent Mississippi at the televised national competition. (Hours before the contest begins, City is given a book without an author called "Long Division.") Turmoil and misunderstanding ensue, as City and LaVander learn they have reason to doubt the merit of their presence at the contest. “They want us to win,” City says to LaVander moments before the contest starts. After being assigned, and then misusing, the word “niggardly” in the first round of the contest, City has a remarkable on-stage meltdown in front of a national television audience. LaVander, on the other hand, though incredibly shaken, advances to the finals and has the chance to win the contest.

The day after the contest, City is sent to spend the weekend with his grandmother in the small coastal community of Melahatchie, which is also the site of the mysterious disappearance of girl named Baize Shephard. Baize Shephard also happens to be one of the main characters in the book "Long Division," which City has been dipping into throughout the story. While in Melahatchie, City's troubled Uncle Relle reveals that City has become an overnight YouTube celebrity thanks to his on-stage meltdown, and that he is being sought to appear on a new television show called "Youtube’s
Black Reality All Stars." City is alternately celebrated and ridiculed by the white and black residents of Melahatchie as a result of his performance at the contest, even as he delves deeper into "Long Division" and its story of the missing Baize Shephard.

When the neighborhood is convinced that a white man nicknamed Pot-Belly has assaulted Baize and done away with her body, they beat the man to death...or so City thinks, until he finds the man alive, chained up in a workshed in the back yard of his grandmother’s house. City visits the imprisoned white man four times during the course of his weekend--reading to him from "Long Division," asking him questions he's always wanted to ask white people, and promising to save him if he survives his own baptism, which his grandmother has engineered during City's visit. When LaVander appears, he and City must reluctantly work together again, this time to save the life of the white man chained in the workshed--and quite possibly the life of City’s grandmother, too.

There's something else that City finds especially interesting about "Long Division," besides the story of Baize: another main character in the book is also named City Coldson--except this City Coldson, who lives in Melahatchie, is 14 in 1985. This City will do anything to make Shalaya Crump love him--including traveling 26 years into the future (via a time portal they find in the woods) to steal a laptop and cellphone from a girl--a mysterious teenaged rapper named Baize Shephard, who lost her parents in Hurricane Katrina.

The following day, Shalaya and City meet another worn down time-traveler, this one from 1964, a boy named "Jewish" Evan Altshuler. Evan is desperate to protect his family against the Klu Klux Klan during Freedom Summer. He convinces Shalaya that he can help her find her parents and her future self if she brings the laptop computer back to 1964 and does him a favor.

Unexpectedly, City and Shalaya become separated, with Shalaya stuck in 1964 and City stuck in 2012. In their wanderings back and forward through time, much is revealed about City’s relationship with Baize, and about segregation, Freedom Summer, the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Oil spill, and the limits of technology and love. Long Division is a Twain-esque exploration of celebrity, authorship, racialized terror, neo-liberalism, religion, and coming of age in Post-Katrina Mississippi.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Two not-quite-parallel threads run through Laymon's meandering debut novel: the first, the story of young Mississippi high-schooler Citoyen, a.k.a. "City"; the second, chapters from a book he finds about a young Mississippi high-schooler of the same name, who, it seems, is him in a different time period. City is something of a typical inner-city teenage protagonist—sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, yet sensitive and observant—so his uncharacteristic outburst and the ensuing repercussions that give the novel its initial momentum seem implausible. The novel takes a fantastical turn, and occasionally Laymon's workings stand out a little too clearly. This selective adherence to the "rules" of writing happens on a larger scale: the novel within a novel goes unexplained—and unquestioned by City—for so long it's as though the author is ignoring his own subject matter to keep pages turning. Those trusting Laymon to provide answers will find a curious, enjoyable novel. However, readers who believe authors must address a text's pressing concerns as they make demands upon the reader—not when the author decides he wants to—will find this novel more trying. Though its real-world sections take relish in skewering the disingenuous masquerade of institutional racism, the book's interest in fantasy elements serves as an easier, less interesting, way out. (June)
From the Publisher
"Laymon's debut novel is an ambitious mix of contemporary southern gothic with Murakamiesque magical realism." —-Booklist
Kirkus Reviews
A novel within a novel--hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying. Citoyen "City" Coldson is a 14-year-old wunderkind when it comes to crafting sentences. In fact, his only rival is his classmate LaVander Peeler. Although the two don't get along, they've qualified to appear on the national finals of the contest "Can You Use That Word in a Sentence," and each is determined to win. Unfortunately, on the nationally televised show, City is given the word "niggardly" and, to say the least, does not provide a "correct, appropriate or dynamic usage" of the word as the rules require. LaVander similarly blows his chance with the word "chitterlings," so both are humiliated, City the more so since his appearance is available to all on YouTube. This leads to a confrontation with his grandmother, alas for City, "the greatest whupper in the history of Mississippi whuppings." Meanwhile, the principal at City's school has given him a book entitled Long Division. When City begins to read this, he discovers that the main character is named City Coldson, and he's in love with a Shalaya Crump...but this is in 1985, and the contest finals occurred in 2013. (Laymon is nothing if not contemporary.) A girl named Baize Shephard also appears in the novel City is reading, though in 2013, she has mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before City's humiliation. Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways. Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572847187
  • Publisher: Agate
  • Publication date: 5/20/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 276
  • Sales rank: 271,842
  • File size: 524 KB

Meet the Author

Kiese Laymon was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. He attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University before graduating from Oberlin College in 1998. He earned an MFA from Indiana University in 2003 and is now an associate professor at Vassar College.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2013

    I really didnt like this book, the language did not seem autheni

    I really didnt like this book, the language did not seem authenic and the attitude seemed forced. It could have been a great time trave/historical fictionl story but the tone was off and the writer did not pull it off.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 12, 2014

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    Posted April 20, 2014

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    Posted January 7, 2014

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