What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker
From the 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.

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker Details

TitleWhat Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker
Author
ReleaseMar 26th, 2019
PublisherHarperAudio
ISBN-139780062898227
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Writing, Essays, Race, Cultural, African American

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker Review

  • Oriana
    January 1, 1970
    I've been a big fan of Damon Young since way before Very Smart Brothas got rolled into The Root, so I was bonkers excited for this book. And I loved it, of course. I love his voice, I love the particular way he writes, full of meandering and often hilarious digressions, absurdist but totally on-point analogies, and long passages that start funny and shift slightly and slightly until before you know it he's holding forth with righteous anger. The book is full of lines like "Pittsburgh, a city so I've been a big fan of Damon Young since way before Very Smart Brothas got rolled into The Root, so I was bonkers excited for this book. And I loved it, of course. I love his voice, I love the particular way he writes, full of meandering and often hilarious digressions, absurdist but totally on-point analogies, and long passages that start funny and shift slightly and slightly until before you know it he's holding forth with righteous anger. The book is full of lines like "Pittsburgh, a city so historically, hilariously, and hopelessly white that Rick James once tried to snort it" and "high school classrooms are basically internet comment threads with acne" and "when drunk, I usually eat how rabbits fuck—angry, sweaty, and looking over my shoulder for falcons" and "to me, fucklessness is the pinnacle of manliness." In these essays he meditates on pick-up basketball, his terrible college poetry, down-ass white boys, his obsession with Kool-Aid, his parents' bouts with debt and housing insecurity, and the way society misperceives black children as less childlike and black women as stronger, thereby never allowing either group to be their authentic selves. He covers his substitute teaching days, why it took him until he was almost thirty to get a drivers license, why he served brunch at his wedding, and how he executed the world's slowest, most pathetic porn-video heist. He delves into his relationships with his parents, his girlfriends and later his wife, his (mostly black) social circle and his (mostly white) basketball peers. He wrings out his neuroses and anxieties, juxtaposing them with his incisive political and social analysis.I love his soliloquy on PTBD (post-traumatic brokeness disorder), his treatise on the tension between black men and homosexuality, and his firsthand struggles with the gentrification of his Pittsburgh neighborhood as seen through his decades going to different barber shops. The essay on racial relations vis-á-vis his (mostly white) pickup basketball team was gutting. The chapter on how to teach his daughter to grow up strong and proud and willing to try to be anything in a world that is horrifically harsh to black women was incredible. There were a few missteps. I don't think he really fully reckoned with rape culture and the entire universe of difference between men and women's experiences under the patriarchy—this is relevant because there's an entire essay on the time he wrote a pretty tone-deaf article about how women should work harder to not get raped. And I don't think he really faced the dynamic between his parents and what that meant for them both, which would involve a lot of summarizing to explain here but suffice it to say he gives his dad (whom he loves so, so much) pass after pass after pass, which is fine, but he has a whole chapter where he almost makes it to talking about what it meant that Dad was unemployed for most of his life while Mom (whom he also loves so, so, so much) supported the whole family. But also: who the fuck am I to judge Damon Young? This is his life, and these are his essays, and maybe he'll get to different places in subsequent books. For now, this is a fantastic collection, brave and brazen and righteous and important..
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  • Reading in Black & White
    January 1, 1970
    I really wanted to like this book but there was an excessive use of the “n” word and the time jumping from one essay to the next was a tad too much which messed up the flow. Damon is a voice I truly enjoy reading but I think I’ll stick with his articles.
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  • Traci at The Stacks
    January 1, 1970
    Parts of this book are take your breath away emotional and good. Parts are a little too funny/silly for me. I loved getting to know Damon Young and reading his thoughts on the big WHYS of his life instead of the what’s that so often fill memoir. The second half of this book was more enjoyable for me. I appreciate this book and what it does though I was often annoyed because I felt the amount of cute humor took away from the gravity of the work. Though I have to admit I laughed sometimes.
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  • chantel nouseforaname
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this book because it felt like the definition of black boy joy and young, youthful, black curiosity. I found every story relatable and possessing this kind of understated, but really powerful, silent respect for it's being put on paper. There's so much power in capturing BIPOC stories, even chill ones. Nothing really crazy happens in this book, nothing too out of the ordinary (when it comes to life, love, birth and death), but we need all the coming of age and young adult storie I really enjoyed this book because it felt like the definition of black boy joy and young, youthful, black curiosity. I found every story relatable and possessing this kind of understated, but really powerful, silent respect for it's being put on paper. There's so much power in capturing BIPOC stories, even chill ones. Nothing really crazy happens in this book, nothing too out of the ordinary (when it comes to life, love, birth and death), but we need all the coming of age and young adult stories representing the swath of black experiences that exist, so I respect this book for being just that. HOWEVER, a couple of things - my nigga, you loved the word 'nigga' way too much. I mean I get it - I went through that period too, as does every young black teen, and yo I still call mad close friends niggas but dude; you overkilled it my g. Secondly, there was something about this entire memoir that felt a little fraudulent, and I don't even think that that's the right word. It's the word that came to my mind but it's not even fraudulent, you know what it is, it's - posturing. That's what it is. It was something that just nagged at me the entire time. I felt it come up during the time where he was talking about - and I'm paraphrasing... but - he was talking about playing basketball with white people during the trump election and not wanting to talk about it (the election) with them. He didn't talk about his discomfort, because it's like these white people let me in.. or something. He'd show up to basketball, watching them and some black conservative guy communicate about shit and try to make peace about trump's being elected; he'd feel awkward, wouldn't invite any of them white people to his home (to not give them any more space in his world), he'd swallow the racist tension that comes with knowing that folks on his team voted for that orange nigga and just sit and live with that and continue every week to play ball like nothing happened, like worlds weren't changing. To me, I was like - why are black women always willing to go "there", fight, have those "hard convos" with many a becky and hank (I'm referencing all the other black female memoirs of this style: This Will Be My Undoing, Eloquent Rage, I'm Still Here, etc.) and black men always wanna chill in the cut and still hug up the white situations of oppression by "not getting into it"? I get the need to not always want to fight about race, politics, etc. I get that, but I don't know - you were earlier talking about wanting to have a "nigga fight story" (like Chapter 1) and you actively walk away from a time to educate surrounding the fucked up situations such as trump's election (like Chapter 13-onwards) I mean, I also get it - that's pretty much Damon Young's m.o., he avoids confrontation (re: Chapters of people thinking he was gay, and him never just coming out and saying yo, I'm not gay.). I get it, that's just how some people deal with things. However, avoidance, plus standing present in fucked up situations, them two elements together just seem fake to me. BUT THAT'S JUST ME and this is my opinion; so it is what it is. Overall, it was a pretty good memoir with a lot of laughs, some really sad times (poverty, familial death) but also some really high highs (marriage, children, hope for the future). Outside of the issues, I fuck with this book overall and halfway recommend it.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    Young uses the form of the essay to both tell his own story of growing up black in Pittsburgh AND write about the culture around him. He has a sharp turn of phrase and a dry humor that I really enjoyed. There is a lot to think about here, from ripping culture, to masculinity, to use of the N word in black culture, to his lack of an driver’s license and how that impacts employment, to his new identity as a parent. I really appreciated how he constructed the chapter about his mother’s illness and Young uses the form of the essay to both tell his own story of growing up black in Pittsburgh AND write about the culture around him. He has a sharp turn of phrase and a dry humor that I really enjoyed. There is a lot to think about here, from ripping culture, to masculinity, to use of the N word in black culture, to his lack of an driver’s license and how that impacts employment, to his new identity as a parent. I really appreciated how he constructed the chapter about his mother’s illness and death then comments on how the white medical establishment views black women’s pain and bodies; very well-crafted.
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  • Rupa
    January 1, 1970
    On a scale from 1 to Queen Latifah’s cover of “I Put a Spell On You”, how cool did I feel reading a galley of this memoir on the subway? Pretty damn cool. This book was such an absolute pleasure to stumble upon. I wasn’t familiar with VerySmartBrothas.com but Young’s writing in this collection of essays is so incisive, so honest, so full of love, and so goddamn hilarious that I know I’ve been missing out. The fact that any discourse about race in this country so often has to be cloaked in humor On a scale from 1 to Queen Latifah’s cover of “I Put a Spell On You”, how cool did I feel reading a galley of this memoir on the subway? Pretty damn cool. This book was such an absolute pleasure to stumble upon. I wasn’t familiar with VerySmartBrothas.com but Young’s writing in this collection of essays is so incisive, so honest, so full of love, and so goddamn hilarious that I know I’ve been missing out. The fact that any discourse about race in this country so often has to be cloaked in humor for people to listen is of course a disheartening one, but I was too busy cackling to mind. In particular, Young does such a beautiful job of explaining his relationship to the n-word, how it can be a blunt instrument coming from the mouth of a stranger but a measure of the utmost comfort, playfulness, and security when spoken by a friend. I want to throw a copy of this at every person who ever complained about the unfairness of not being able to use that word, because if you don’t get it after reading this book, you ain’t never gonna get it. (Note: If I had been a reader of VSB, I might have been turned off by Young’s “Rape Responsibility” piece and not given him or the book a chance, so maybe I should be grateful that we weren’t previously introduced because the loss would have been entirely mine. In an age of hollow apologies, Young’s unsparing account of that incident comes across as that of someone mature enough to examine, recognize, and indeed take responsibility for an extremely misguided take, and he earned my enduring respect as a result.)
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  • Mehrsa
    January 1, 1970
    One of the funniest memoirs I've read in a long time. I loved it. His section on Obama and the one about basketball at the end made me both laugh and cry.
  • stacia
    January 1, 1970
    I *loved* this book. I like memoirs that aren’t chronological or linear, so the decision to make this a collection of essays that read as reflective vignettes worked well for me. I also just like that, though this is a Black personal narrative that addresses trauma, the trauma isn’t the focus or the point. It’s part of the fabric of the Black experience but it isn’t the sum total of it and Young gets that in a way and allows himself the freedom to toggle between laughter and gravitas. He takes h I *loved* this book. I like memoirs that aren’t chronological or linear, so the decision to make this a collection of essays that read as reflective vignettes worked well for me. I also just like that, though this is a Black personal narrative that addresses trauma, the trauma isn’t the focus or the point. It’s part of the fabric of the Black experience but it isn’t the sum total of it and Young gets that in a way and allows himself the freedom to toggle between laughter and gravitas. He takes his childhood seriously but not too seriously, and that’s refreshing for memoir. What’s also so resonant for me is that Young is constantly complicating the concepts of the Black nuclear family, Black suburban life, and the Black middle class. This is very much a story about how tenuous and insecure those states are, how shakeable circumstance makes them. Our memoirs don’t talk enough about few Black families are *solidly* situated within one class instead of straddling two or more from year to year. There’s also just gorgeous writing in here about fatherhood, grief, love and marriage. I can’t recommend it enough.
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  • Morgan Gayle
    January 1, 1970
    4 1/2 stars to be exact.
  • Max G.
    January 1, 1970
    As a longtime VSB reader, I went into this book feeling like I knew Damon, and I got everything I expected; the pithy observations and wry humour that make his writing so distinctive and enjoyable.But what I didn’t expect was the feeling that Damon knew ME that I got from this book. As he might say, there’s some deeply insightful sh!t in this book that brought clarity to some of my own experiences; both as a Black person in a white world and as a slightly awkward perpetual over thinker. In short As a longtime VSB reader, I went into this book feeling like I knew Damon, and I got everything I expected; the pithy observations and wry humour that make his writing so distinctive and enjoyable.But what I didn’t expect was the feeling that Damon knew ME that I got from this book. As he might say, there’s some deeply insightful sh!t in this book that brought clarity to some of my own experiences; both as a Black person in a white world and as a slightly awkward perpetual over thinker. In short, I flucking loved this book. His raw honesty had me dying laughing at some points and wiping away thug tears at others.
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  • Cauchy09
    January 1, 1970
    A loose collection of memoir-like essays, this is a bumpy read with a big heart. On the other side of PA, I can still relate to much of Damon's story. And I'd assign some of these chapters to my wypipo friends who want to get woke.
  • Maia
    January 1, 1970
    I read a lot of memoir, and this one jumped immediately to the top reaches of my favorites list. Damon Young is a really excellent writer- each chapter could stand alone as an essay with a very satisfying beginning, middle, and end, but read together they tell a nuanced, intimate, hilarious and honest story of his life growing up black and neurotic in Pittsburgh. As a kid, he and his parents navigated lower middle class, a series of near-financial disasters that were always precariously recovere I read a lot of memoir, and this one jumped immediately to the top reaches of my favorites list. Damon Young is a really excellent writer- each chapter could stand alone as an essay with a very satisfying beginning, middle, and end, but read together they tell a nuanced, intimate, hilarious and honest story of his life growing up black and neurotic in Pittsburgh. As a kid, he and his parents navigated lower middle class, a series of near-financial disasters that were always precariously recovered from. Damon shaped his early identity around his love of and talent at basketball, which landed him a full-ride scholarship to Canisius College. It was there his career as a writer began, from the humble beginnings of a series of terrible, semi-plagiarized poems written to woo a long-term crush. The romance was unsuccessful, but the poems sent him in the direction of blogging, back when doing so was still a novelty. Post-college he co-founded a site called Very Smart Brothas, which still runs pop culture reviews and social commentary to this day, and landed a writing job at Ebony magazine. This book entertainingly chronicles his relationships with girlfriends, with barbers, with parents, with the n-word, with friends, with basketball, and his career (both successes and big mistakes). Buy this book and shelve it with Shrill, Sissy, Hunger, She Wants It, and Bad Feminist.
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    The essays were educational to read for a white grandma. I especially liked the ones about black haircuts, Obama, and Kool Aid. Damon Young certainly has a voice.
  • Shayna Ross
    January 1, 1970
    Damon Young, born and raised in Pittsburgh (specifically East Liberty before gentrification) releases a collection of personal and reflective essays revolving around a number of topics, including not having a driver's license, having a white barber, how he met his wife, basketball as a kid, basketball throughout school, basketball as an adult every Thursday night for 2 hours with white dudes, his daughter Zoe, and the many various relationships with family, friends, and lovers. Written with a se Damon Young, born and raised in Pittsburgh (specifically East Liberty before gentrification) releases a collection of personal and reflective essays revolving around a number of topics, including not having a driver's license, having a white barber, how he met his wife, basketball as a kid, basketball throughout school, basketball as an adult every Thursday night for 2 hours with white dudes, his daughter Zoe, and the many various relationships with family, friends, and lovers. Written with a sense of humor, sometimes a little snarky and often times very goofy, Young narrows the conversation in the direction of what does it mean to be a young black man in modern America? What does it mean to be a young black man in Pittsburgh, especially while watching your neighborhood morph into something white and unrecognizable? What does it mean to be a young black male that has opportunities to be successful, to be a somebody, only to be shut down because a small barrier that may or may not be connected to the color of skin?I enjoyed these essays quite a bit, although admittedly, like how Chuck Klosterman can drone on about The Real World on MTV in 1995 for endless pages, Young spoke happily, passionately, and sometimes angrily about basketball for many pages. (I just have my limited interest on sportsmanship for so long.) One of the more striking aspects about Young's memoir in pieces is how he reflects so strongly on his decisions, why he made those decisions, what happened due to that decision, and what came after the decision - the clearest example of this is the essay How to Make the Internet Hate You in 15 Simple Steps (as you could probably guess from the title). He dives so deeply into his decision and mistakes, repenting in the manner that he understands that there are still issues and barriers to overcome. It is incredible to read through his experience, dictated so clearly and vividly, one can quickly empathize while still being angry, but also understand why he struggled. While definitely a great read for those who do or have lived in Pittsburgh, especially those familiar with the East Liberty neighborhood, it is an new voice to the modern generation during problematic times. With humor like Samantha Irby and Phoebe Robinson, Young takes hard issues with a personalized twist and speaks from his heart (or his anxiety). Great for urban and suburban libraries.
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  • Kimberley
    January 1, 1970
    ***3.5 STARS***I was excited to read Damon Young's book. As one who's familiar with the work he's done via Very Smart Brothas, I was interested to learn more about him. However, this read less like a memoir than a collection of anecdotes--told in no particular sequence--which seemingly span the entirety of his life, from the time he was a boy, to now.If you're familiar with Young's style of writing--lots of satire, colorful language, regular use of the "n" word and heavy on the tongue-in-cheek-- ***3.5 STARS***I was excited to read Damon Young's book. As one who's familiar with the work he's done via Very Smart Brothas, I was interested to learn more about him. However, this read less like a memoir than a collection of anecdotes--told in no particular sequence--which seemingly span the entirety of his life, from the time he was a boy, to now.If you're familiar with Young's style of writing--lots of satire, colorful language, regular use of the "n" word and heavy on the tongue-in-cheek--then you won't be surprised by his storytelling method. However, what works for a blog doesn't always translate well in book form, particularly if the subject is of a personal nature. In other words, if the subject is you, is it necessary to make every uncomfortable situation read like a caricature?For example, in one particular chapter, describing his life-long "hatred" of one particular peer, he went on for multiple pages describing the extent of said "hatred":It's been more than twenty years since we were teammates on the basketball team and at least fifteen years since I've last seen him, but I still root for bad things to happen to him--not death or disease or anything, just a perpetual parade of sh*tty mundanities, random misfortunes, and miscellaneous pratfalls. I hope that every time he rund for a bus he misses it by seconds and is close enough to see both the bus pass by and the perfunctory shrug of feigned pity bus drivers tend to make when that happens. I hope that at least once a week he attempts to make spaghetti, and while transitioning the Giant Eagle--brand angel hair pasta from the box to pan, it slips from his hand and falls to the floor--and the five second rule doesn't work because the floor is covered with cat hair...I hope that....While funny, without question, Young continued describing said "mundanities" for roughly another page or two. Just the mundanities. Long after you'd gotten the gist. Where this may have worked for a blog post, because you're not looking to relay anything more than the details of that one story, it took away from the actual point of the story;in this case, Young's later realization as to why he disliked this person as much as he did. In the end, the reason for the story was actually a lot deeper than you'd assume, but you had to wait for it and wade through a lot to get there. There are certainly many instances of Young sharing epiphanies he gleaned once he grew comfortable with himself and understood his role as a man--particularly in the chapters concerning his mother, rape culture, and fatherhood--but the majority of this book could be likened to perusing the archives of someone's blog.While that's not necessarily a bad thing, I was expecting something more than that within these pages; still, it's a book worth a read and I certainly will continue to support Young's work.*Thank you to Edelweiss+, Ecco, and HarperCollins for this Advanced eGalley of Mr. Young's work. Opinion is my own and was not influenced.*
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  • Jenny Shank
    January 1, 1970
    from https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/5...Damon Young is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas, a senior editor at The Root, and a writer of great wit and acumen who tells the story of growing up black and male in Philadelphia with incredible verve. He wrote this book, he explains, “to examine and discover the whys of my life instead of continuing to allow the whats to dominate and fog my memories.” Why did he wait until age 26 to earn a driver’s license? Why did his mother di from https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/5...Damon Young is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas, a senior editor at The Root, and a writer of great wit and acumen who tells the story of growing up black and male in Philadelphia with incredible verve. He wrote this book, he explains, “to examine and discover the whys of my life instead of continuing to allow the whats to dominate and fog my memories.” Why did he wait until age 26 to earn a driver’s license? Why did his mother die young? Why did he enjoy Kool-Aid into adulthood? How can he reconcile the fact that he’s troubled by his neighborhood’s gentrification when he also enjoys the upscale amenities this brings? Young tells stories from his life in his trademark kinetic, discursive, joke-cracking style. These essays will amuse and trouble. “Thursday-Night Hoops,” about a pickup basketball league Young plays in with mostly white teammates, should be required reading to help understand the complexities and contradictions of black and white people coexisting in America today.
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  • Aqura (engineersreadtoo)
    January 1, 1970
    I am a sucker for memoirs so I thought I would fly through this one, but that wasn’t the case. All in all, I feel neutral about it. There were a few essays that I enjoyed, specifically the two dedicated to his mother and daughter. Other chapters I thought were somewhat longer than necessary to get the point across, but I think that’s just Damon Young’s style and I respect that. He is brutally honest, sharing his failures, fears, and vulnerabilities while being unapologetically Black; and that is I am a sucker for memoirs so I thought I would fly through this one, but that wasn’t the case. All in all, I feel neutral about it. There were a few essays that I enjoyed, specifically the two dedicated to his mother and daughter. Other chapters I thought were somewhat longer than necessary to get the point across, but I think that’s just Damon Young’s style and I respect that. He is brutally honest, sharing his failures, fears, and vulnerabilities while being unapologetically Black; and that is what I appreciated the most about this memoir.
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  • Harold M.
    January 1, 1970
    The rating is for content more so than structure. I see a lot of similarities in Damon's story and my own both for good and for bad. I think that this isn't a complete story yet and I'm looking forward for more on his journey. Damon's not a bad person, he's also not an especially virtuous person. I think he's trying and failing and succeeding and figuring it out and I'm grateful for a story that's honest, complicated and revealing.
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  • Maria
    January 1, 1970
    Young possesses a rare level of self-awareness for a man, and it shows in his writing, where nothing, especially not his own flaws, is saved from some gentle ribbing and thoughtful consideration. Really enjoyed this collection of essays, which are largely humorous but have some heavier moments scattered throughout. The most moving part for me was him discussing the sacrifice and selflessness of black motherhood in the context of his mother’s life and death.
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  • Colin
    January 1, 1970
    Disclaimer: I am white, I am male. I am glad I read this book. I had hoped to learn more about life in America as a young African American. I would say about 15% of his stories are unequivocally uniquely from this experience - the rest is just the human condition. I worry that the ossified boundaries between our communities leaves us convinced that our human experience is unique and the "other" is simply not human and cannot understand. I will always strive to understand, but it can be enervatin Disclaimer: I am white, I am male. I am glad I read this book. I had hoped to learn more about life in America as a young African American. I would say about 15% of his stories are unequivocally uniquely from this experience - the rest is just the human condition. I worry that the ossified boundaries between our communities leaves us convinced that our human experience is unique and the "other" is simply not human and cannot understand. I will always strive to understand, but it can be enervating to face that lack of comprehension knowing no light can shine through.
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  • Statia
    January 1, 1970
    You should read this memoir no matter what your opinion on race relations in the U.S is. I consider myself (partly based on my background) extremely socially conscious, but this memoir explains and depicts the real life of a young black man; a perspective I lack given I am a female with white skin. The most poignant statement is the explanation of white privilege. "The idea that whiteness, for white Americans, provides an imperishable benefit of the doubt and a flexible and perpetually renewable You should read this memoir no matter what your opinion on race relations in the U.S is. I consider myself (partly based on my background) extremely socially conscious, but this memoir explains and depicts the real life of a young black man; a perspective I lack given I am a female with white skin. The most poignant statement is the explanation of white privilege. "The idea that whiteness, for white Americans, provides an imperishable benefit of the doubt and a flexible and perpetually renewable get-out-of-jail-free card -- is often dismissed by critics and even spoken of by believers in it as an abstract and academic term with no basis in reality. But it doesn't exist without the cultural, social, political, and legal reinforcement that white people's feelings, thoughts, desires, and opinions matter more than the feelings, thoughts, desires, and opinions of non-white people. It's that the humanity of whites is the only humanity that matters." There are some statements I do not agree with. Such as "America is a serial killer of black women" and "White privilege killer her" (in reference to his mom's death). Yes, MINORITIES ARE SYSTEMATICALLY OPPRESSED IN THE UNITED STATES, EVEN IN 2019. Something that is disgusting and unacceptable. But we can't ignore that Young's mother was a smoker with health issues and was overworked due to her husband's unemployment spanning over decades. Young also says "Whiteness requires something it can point to and claim itself better than." I would have preferred "white supremacists" or something similar because it's unfair to assume that anyone who defines themselves as white does so because they are not (but are better than) black. Overall, I give this memoir a solid three stars because it deals with a difficult concept while remaining real and funny. At times I did feel discouraged from reading on by Young's distaste for white people. The essay where he harps on "that's some white people shit" is funny and accurate. But the chapter where he explains his love for his wife is partly based on their mutual criticism/dislike of whites, although that doesn't make them "racist."
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  • Marvin
    January 1, 1970
    This book takes readers on an eye-opening, irreverent, witty, and, at times, harrowing journey in the life of a young Black man coming of age in America, specifically, Pittsburgh, PA.Young touches on institutional racism, masculinity, white guys who say “n*gga”, getting roasted and not having a good enough comeback, poverty, gentrification, “hotep” poetry, and much more.A standout piece is early in the book where Young talks about the presumptions and expectations America has of Black youth:“If This book takes readers on an eye-opening, irreverent, witty, and, at times, harrowing journey in the life of a young Black man coming of age in America, specifically, Pittsburgh, PA.Young touches on institutional racism, masculinity, white guys who say “n*gga”, getting roasted and not having a good enough comeback, poverty, gentrification, “hotep” poetry, and much more.A standout piece is early in the book where Young talks about the presumptions and expectations America has of Black youth:“If you’re just black, America adds a decade of age, a vat of sass and a coating of Kevlar to your skin because of course niggers don’t feel any pain. If you’re poor and black, America acts like you emerge from the womb twenty seven years old… White people get to be babies. And they get to be babies when they’re adults. Poor Black people are born Avon Barksdale.”“What Doesn’t Kill You” is unique in the sense that it’s not what many people expect from a “black male in America” memoir. It’s not just trauma, hard lessons and dealing with police; it’s multifaceted. It contains a sharp wit similar to that of a Samantha Irby, the vulnerability and introspection of a Kiese Laymon, and the social commentary of a Ta-nehisi Coates.This book showed me that it’s okay to be all of yourself as a writer. It’s okay to be serious, silly, thoughtful, heartfelt, dark, candid and funny, because these are all important parts of the human experience.“What Doesn’t Kill You” inspires me to not only continue to challenge myself as a writer, but to appreciate my story and my journey in this world. I’m almost certain that others will find inspiration in it as well.
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  • Saitonne
    January 1, 1970
    I have always loved Damon's writing on VSB, so I was excited to read this. His writing is so honest, the kind of honest that hits you in the gut and that you need to sit with. VSB always gave me insight into the African American life in ways that pop culture and movies that I watched didn't. The injustices, the invisible fights, the invisible and visible assumptions of failure, lesser than and the results of constantly fighting to have a chance and lots of successes despite the odds, the ability I have always loved Damon's writing on VSB, so I was excited to read this. His writing is so honest, the kind of honest that hits you in the gut and that you need to sit with. VSB always gave me insight into the African American life in ways that pop culture and movies that I watched didn't. The injustices, the invisible fights, the invisible and visible assumptions of failure, lesser than and the results of constantly fighting to have a chance and lots of successes despite the odds, the ability to keep going even when everything seems against you. He does this here, his story is an American story, the American Dream is made of this even though it's never as visible to the rest of the world. I felt like it was a coming of age, a coming into comfort with who you are and who you are becoming and finished it rooting for him and all his peoples and especially his daughter. I think one of the bigger achievements I hope for this book is for people to truly listen to each other and understand that we never do life with the same set of cards, that folk have often humongous challenges to surmount that you may never know about. That you not knowing these challenges still does not give you the right to write off folk as lazy, as ignorant, as whatever else just because you are where you are and they are where they are...
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  • Tamika
    January 1, 1970
    More like 3.5. I love Damon and Panama from VSB. I'm not sure the blog translates well into the book form. Honestly, I don't abandon books easily, but was ready to drop things in chapter 1. Damon is a prolific writer and somehow the overuse of pejorative terms left me thinking I'd stick to the blogs. Part of me wonders if this was intentional. Maybe this was part of the weeding out process. Maybe if you can't get through the writing in chapter 1...this book isn't for you. LOLSections did read as More like 3.5. I love Damon and Panama from VSB. I'm not sure the blog translates well into the book form. Honestly, I don't abandon books easily, but was ready to drop things in chapter 1. Damon is a prolific writer and somehow the overuse of pejorative terms left me thinking I'd stick to the blogs. Part of me wonders if this was intentional. Maybe this was part of the weeding out process. Maybe if you can't get through the writing in chapter 1...this book isn't for you. LOLSections did read as stream of consciousness...leaving me wondering where is this going...waiting for him to circle back to the focus which inevitably did happen. Skipped over sections that took too long of a path in the meandering. Worth a read...maybe not cover to cover.
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  • Senshin
    January 1, 1970
    I had been looking forward and waiting for this a long time. I couldn't decide between 2 or 3 stars. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't this. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this book, it's beautifully written, it's very personal and there's so much to think about and learn from. But words being said over and over again, every 5 sentences, drives me nuts and I felt like it was all over the place, not so much a collection of essays, as a collection of essays from different sections I had been looking forward and waiting for this a long time. I couldn't decide between 2 or 3 stars. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't this. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this book, it's beautifully written, it's very personal and there's so much to think about and learn from. But words being said over and over again, every 5 sentences, drives me nuts and I felt like it was all over the place, not so much a collection of essays, as a collection of essays from different sections of something. But that's just me. I fully understand other people's high ratings and I do recommend. I think I'd just been looking forward to this for too long.
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  • Ben Ostrowsky
    January 1, 1970
    This memoir is the furthest thing from a puff piece it could be, and Lord knows some memoirs are so self-congratulatory you think the author had some ribs removed so he could reach. Damon Young lays bare the moments in which he most significantly failed to live up to his own standards. It's instructive, as are his other observations about being black and male in Pittsburgh specifically and America generally. And it's both touching and hilarious. Unequivocally recommended to anyone who cares abou This memoir is the furthest thing from a puff piece it could be, and Lord knows some memoirs are so self-congratulatory you think the author had some ribs removed so he could reach. Damon Young lays bare the moments in which he most significantly failed to live up to his own standards. It's instructive, as are his other observations about being black and male in Pittsburgh specifically and America generally. And it's both touching and hilarious. Unequivocally recommended to anyone who cares about Pittsburgh or other big Northern cities, racism, or building your own character with introspection.
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  • Michael Berquist
    January 1, 1970
    Damon Young's What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker is a stunning collection. I particularly enjoyed Young's piece about the rise of Obama and the impact on society today. This book was eye-opening and should be required reading for Americans today. The book is beautifully written with content that pulls no punches. It is about time for Young's work to be widely read and I look forward to reading more of his VSB blog and future books. I am planning on using some of these essays for my high sch Damon Young's What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker is a stunning collection. I particularly enjoyed Young's piece about the rise of Obama and the impact on society today. This book was eye-opening and should be required reading for Americans today. The book is beautifully written with content that pulls no punches. It is about time for Young's work to be widely read and I look forward to reading more of his VSB blog and future books. I am planning on using some of these essays for my high school students. My favorite book of 2019 thus far!
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  • Kayla
    January 1, 1970
    This was an excellent book! I laughed, I cried, I cringed, and most importantly I thought A LOT. What made this book an added amount of greatness is that Damon Young is from and grew up in the Pittsburgh area like I did. We're from different neighborhoods, but still it's cool. He was also apparently a substitute teacher at my high school at one point, but it wasn't at the same time that I was there. It's cool and random. I loved the way that Young expressed his thoughts on such serious issues wi This was an excellent book! I laughed, I cried, I cringed, and most importantly I thought A LOT. What made this book an added amount of greatness is that Damon Young is from and grew up in the Pittsburgh area like I did. We're from different neighborhoods, but still it's cool. He was also apparently a substitute teacher at my high school at one point, but it wasn't at the same time that I was there. It's cool and random. I loved the way that Young expressed his thoughts on such serious issues with a biting wit. I would laugh, but then think wow that was insightful. This is a must read!
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  • Christina Gamiño
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely loved this book. His writing is so funny and raw and honest. I love what he writes on Very Smart Brothas, and I thought I'd love this book, but recently I've read books from my favorite authors that weren't as good as I thought they'd be, so I was a little worried I wouldn't like this, but nope. Better than I could've imagined.
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  • Susan Lee
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant WritingStep back from the topics, which range from basketball to haircuts to Kool-aid and white. Endless whiteness. So, ok, step back from that and meet a brilliant and funny and insightful and exquisitely honest writer. Then after you’ve read this, and bought copies for 5 or 8 of your friends, re-read it, cuz you’ll find lots of new treasures.
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