How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America Summary & Study Guide

Kiese Laymon
This Study Guide consists of approximately 29 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America.
This section contains 441 words
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How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America Summary & Study Guide Description

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon.

This guide was created using the following version of this text: Laymon, Kiese. How to Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays. Chicago: Bolden Books, 2013.

How to Kill Yourself and Others in America is Kiese Laymon’s first published collection of essays about such themes as race, politics, identity, and violence. The collection opens with "Prologue: We Will Never Ever Know: Letters to Uncle Jimmy," which is made up of letters to the author’s uncle who suddenly died after getting off crack and buying some meat. In it, the author discusses that he wished he had not died, as he would have liked to get to know him better. The next essay, "The Worst of White Folks," discusses that a certain group of people are set on keeping African Americans low on the social ladder. It also encompasses the idea of personal responsibility.

The titular essay “How to Kill Yourself and Others in America,” tells the story of when the author was kicked out of Millsaps College after inciting racial tensions through writing inflammatory columns about race and sex, which eventually culminates to a point in which the author pondered suicide. The essay also touches on racial profiling and police violence. The next essay, “Our Kind of Ridiculous,” also delves into the idea of racial profiling and racial preconceptions that occur in American society. This essay is followed by “Hip-Hop Stole My Southern Black Boy,” an essay about the author’s interaction with Southern Hip-Hop music and its progression.

The collection then takes a sudden turn with the essay “Echo: Mychal, Darnell, Kiese, Kai, and Marlon,” which discusses acceptance and self-love in African American culture. The essay "Kanye West and HaLester Myers are Better at Their Jobs..." also analyzes African American culture, but centers more on the idea of treatment towards women than acceptance. These analyses of culture are furthered with the essay “Reasonable Doubt and the Lost Presidential Debate of 2012,” which delves into the reactions that American politicians give regarding national problems that affect the African American community.

Towards the end of the collection, “Eulogy for Three Black Boys Who Lived” discusses the lives of three successful black entertainers, Michael Jackson, Bernie Mac, and Tupac Shakur, and their impacts on American culture. The final essay, “You Are the Second Person,” attempts to use the second person pronoun in order to explain the author’s difficulties with writing what he wants in the current literary climate, as well as his personal struggles during his writing process. Finally, the epilogue, acts as a sort of retrospect on the author’s personal struggles and who taught him to overcome them.

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This section contains 441 words
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