62 pages 2 hours read

Kiese Laymon


Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2018

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Teacher Introduction

Heavy: An American Memoir

  • Genre: Nonfiction; Autobiography; Social Commentary
  • Originally Published: 2018
  • Reading Level/Interest: College/Adult
  • Structure/Length: 16 chapters; approximately 257 pages; approximately 6 hours, 17 minutes on audiobook
  • Central Concern: This deeply personal memoir explores the author's experiences growing up as a Black man in Jackson, Mississippi, dealing with issues such as racism, obesity, sexual violence, trauma, and family relationships. Through this, Laymon discusses broader social and cultural issues, particularly the way America conceptualizes Black bodies and identity.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Racism; physical and emotional abuse; sexual violence; explicit language including use of the n-word; eating disorders.

Kiese Laymon, Author

  • Bio: Born 1974; raised in Jackson, Mississippi; professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi; known for his searing commentary on American society and Black identity; writes personal essays, memoir, and fiction; explores themes of race, masculinity, family, and the Southern United States.
  • Other Works: Long Division (2013); How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America (2013)
  • Awards: Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction (2019); Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose (2019)

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Unit:

  • Weight
  • Racism and Language
  • Truth and Lies

STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Unit, students will:

  • Consider the role that language plays in shaping our lives and lived experience, and how societal perspective of language can either perpetuate harmful stereotypes or provide a path for liberation.