What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker Summary and Reviews

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker

A Memoir in Essays

by Damon Young

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young X
What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2019
    320 pages
    Genre: Short Stories/Essays

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Young's charm and wit make these essays a pleasure to read; his candid approach makes them memorable." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. A passionate, wryly bittersweet tribute to black life…sharply observed…A must read." - Booklist

"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 is one of the most fearless and important young writers today. A devastatingly funny critique of racism, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker is a humorous and deep dive into the culture and a life lived in that precarious state we call blackness." - Michael Eric Dyson, author of What Truth Sounds Like

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Author Information

Damon Young

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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