What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays

· Sold by HarperCollins
12 reviews

About this ebook

A Finalist for the NAACP Image Award

A Finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction

A Finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor

Longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

An NPR Best Book of the Year

A Washington Independent Review of Books Favorite of the Year

From the host of podcast "Stuck with Damon Young," cofounder of VerySmartBrothas.com, 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.

It’s a condition that’s sometimes stretched to absurd limits, provoking the angst that made him question if he was any good at the “being straight” thing, as if his sexual orientation was something he could practice and get better at, like a crossover dribble move or knitting; creating the farce where, as a teen, he wished for a white person to call him a racial slur just so he could fight him and have a great story about it; and generating the surreality of watching gentrification transform his Pittsburgh neighborhood from predominantly Black to “Portlandia . . . but with Pierogies.” 

And, at its most devastating, it provides him reason to believe that his mother would be alive today if she were white.

From one of our most respected cultural observers, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker is a hilarious and honest debut that is both a celebration of the idiosyncrasies and distinctions of Blackness and a critique of white supremacy and how we define masculinity.

Ratings and reviews

12 reviews
Linda Blatnik
November 8, 2022
I read this book as a fan of Damon Young's columns in the Washington Post. His writing is self-analysis that is raw and vulnerable, funny and beautifully written, which makes it powerful and unforgettable. it is also difficult to read as he exposes his feelings about his relationships with White people, especially in the last chapter which is an ode to his daughter. I highly recommend this book. It will stay with you for a long time.
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P Harris
December 26, 2019
I'm a long-time VSB fan. The site and its writers are just smart. This is a nice glimpse into the experiences and opinions of what it's like to be black and male in America at this moment. Good read!
1 person found this review helpful
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Theresa Ortega
February 3, 2022
This book is a must read! Serious, poignant, and funny all at the same time. His experiences are human experiences. The audio is a must hear!
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About the author

Damon Young is the cofounder and editor in chief of VerySmartBrothas, a senior editor at The Root, and a columnist for GQ. His work has appeared in outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Al-Jazeera, Slate, Salon, The Guardian (UK), New York magazine, Jezebel, Complex, EBONY, Essence, USA Today, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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