What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker
A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young
From the cofounder of Very Smart Brothas, and one of the most read writers on race and culture at work today, a provocative and humorous memoir-in-essays that explores the ever-shifting definitions of what it means to be Black (and male) in America.
For Damon Young, existing while Black is an extreme sport. The act of possessing black skin while searching for space to breathe in America is enough to induce a ceaseless state of angst where questions such as “How should I react here, as a professional black person?” and “Will this white person’s potato salad kill me?” are forever relevant.
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker chronicles Young’s efforts to survive while battling and making sense of the various neuroses his country has given him.
"With this absurdly trenchant, bouncy, tragicomic, expansive yet intimate book, Damon somehow, someway, made the page bend around my head and heart in a manner I honestly didn’t think the essay or memoir forms were capable of bending."
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
"Striking in its storytelling and imagery, in its honesty and humor, in its self-reflection and self-criticism, in its Blackness and humanity. Damon Young produced an unobstructed and unsanitized memoir that few people have the courage to write and all people should be encouraged to read."
—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
"Damon Young's essays about his life are funny, illuminating and occasionally gutting. He is curious and wise in his story-telling, lingering on questions of place (Pittsburgh) and parenthood (his parents' and his own), of love and sex and sports and men and women; he wrestles with his own masculinity, his fears and his lies, all while remaining unrelenting in his determination to learn and teach something valuable about blackness in America. He more than succeeds, in a volume that is a pleasure and an education."
—Rebecca Traister, author of Good and Mad
"Damon Young manages to pull off a memoir in essays that is by turns serious, political, self-reflective and hella funny at the same damn time. And he does so while rejecting the trope of tortured Black manhood so common these days. This book left me feeling thankful and hopeful."
—Brittney Cooper, author of Eloquent Rage
“Authentic, keen, and touching . . . The beauty of What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker is that Young never tries to make it easy for readers. . . this timely and powerful book. . . like the work of bell hooks and Roxane Gay, should be required reading.” (NPR)
“The VerySmartBrothas.com cofounder and senior editor for The Root has already established himself as one of our most vibrant voices on race. Now comes his first book, a blazing memoir in essays.” (Entertainment Weekly, “20 Great New Books to Read this March”)
“One of the freshest, most impor¬tant black voices on the internet.” (Mother Jones)
“A fascinating exploration of how race, class and gender, inform notions of black identity in American life [and] an astute critique of the contours along which black people survive the limitations of historic and systemic racism . . . language is itself a central character.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
“Readers who know Young’s work from the blog he co-founded, Very Smart Brothas, will recognize his voice, his fondness for lists, his precise, comprehensive and spectacular references to pop culture, his wit and his keen mind.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“Brave, incisive and witty. . . an essential American voice . . . Young is . . . the American writer who could bridge our racial divide . . . Sometimes as profanely magnificent as a Richard Pryor routine, but just as often droll in the vein of David Sedaris.” (Pittsburgh Quarterly)