Heavy: An American Memoir Summary
Part I: Boy Man
Part I of Kiese Laymon’s memoir Heavy takes place in Jackson, Mississippi. Kiese, aged twelve, goes to Beulah Beauford’s house, where older teenage boys and a fifteen-year-old girl named Layla gather during summer weekends. Kiese’s mother instructs him to use Beulah Beauford’s encyclopedias to work on a research report. Layla goes into a bedroom with several boys, and they use her sexually. Kiese and Layla talk after what transpires in the bedroom, but neither knows how to address their feelings of unsettlement. Soon after his conversation with Layla, Kiese runs away from Beulah Beauford’s house, heading for his own home about a mile away.
Kiese describes a memory of one of his babysitters, Renata, a student of his mother’s, who is completing a doctorate at the nearby university. Renata coerces Kiese to engage in sexual acts with her, until one day, months later, she brings her boyfriend over and they have sex in his mother’s bed. Kiese realizes he is not Renata’s boyfriend. After Kiese drives the pair of them out, she never comes back to babysit him again.
One afternoon, Kiese arrives home from Beulah Beauford’s house, where he waits for his mother. When she arrives, she shows him a set of new encyclopedias and assigns him an essay to write. He thanks her and asks her to help him lose weight. Later, Kiese and his mother go grocery shopping, but Kiese sees a picture of his mother on a list posted in the store. Though he doesn’t completely understand what the picture means, he suggests that they leave the store, and when Kiese’s mother sees the picture herself, she agrees, putting her checkbook back in her handbag. Kiese drives home, and his mother falls asleep while Kiese recalls a party at his home attended by his mother’s students and her lover, Malachi Hunter.
When Kiese goes to see a psychologist to talk about his parents’ divorce and his tendency towards violence, he is confused by her questions and insinuations about his eating habits and alcohol consumption. The psychologist, paid for by Malachi Hunter, recommends that both Kiese and his mother count to ten when stressed, exercise more often, and eat less sugar and carbs.
The next time Kiese’s mother takes him to Beulah Beauford’s house, he protests. Soon after he arrives, he witnesses one of the older boys coercing his friend Dougie into a sexual act. The older boy pleads for Kiese not to tell anyone what he has seen, but Kiese drives the boy out of the house. He calls Malachi Hunter looking for his mother, but he gets no answer. When his mother finally appears, she has a black eye. Malachi Hunter comes over to their house later to apologize.
That same summer, Kiese spends several days with his grandmother. They go to church and to the house his grandmother cleans. Kiese helps his grandmother clean the clothes that belong to her white clients, and she whips him with a belt when she finds him stomping on the clothes in anger. He also helps her in the garden, and when she tries to touch his face, he flinches. Kiese begins to write a report on the Book of Psalms, but he veers away from his assigned topic, writing instead about being beaten. He also discloses his confusion around sex and remarks on the sexual experiences he has witnessed and taken part in. After reading Kiese’s report, his grandmother offers him reassurance that 218 pounds is not too large for a boy his age. As he drifts off to sleep in his grandmother’s bed, she tells him that not all memories should be remembered.
Part II: Black Abundance
Part II begins with a description of Kiese’s eighth grade year at St. Richard, a white Catholic school in Jackson. Kiese and his friend LaThon Simmons are both scholarship students. LaThon has a butter knife in class one day, and when both of the boys get in trouble with the principal, they know that they will receive beatings at home for the incident. From then on, the two boys are separated while at school. In English class, the...
(The entire section is 2,328 words.)