What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker

A Memoir in Essays
Narrated by: Damon Young
Length: 8 hrs and 11 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (373 ratings)

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Interview: Listen in as Damon Young talks about what it meant to hold both his childhood and current ideas of black masculinity up to the light in his insightful and funny memoir, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker. Note: Portions of this interview contain mature language.

I wonder how much of a role socialization played in me having certain ideas of what a man is supposed to be, what a husband is supposed to be, what a wife is supposed to be, and what a woman's supposed to be in a family unit.

  • What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker
  • I wonder how much of a role socialization played in me having certain ideas of what a man is supposed to be, what a husband is supposed to be, what a wife is supposed to be, and what a woman's supposed to be in a family unit.

Publisher's Summary

A Finalist for the NAACP Image Award

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 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.”  

At its most devastating, it provides him reason to believe 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.

©2019 Damon Young (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

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Reviewed by a B![c# @$$ White Boy

I am not a woke or down a$$ white boy but I love this book. I laughed, cried, argued, and sat ashamed and awed. A must listen or read for everyone in America.

14 people found this helpful

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Insightful and and familiar...

Great listen. His real world telling if his-story was really good. Loved the essay style and personal perspectives. It also good to hear the numerous topics covered.

Bravo

WARNING...”N” word heavy. But I get it.

4 people found this helpful

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Thank you, Mr. Young

So grateful for your ability and willingness to use your platform to represent the voice of the 30 something year old, college educated, hoopin *ss, praying, husband of a Black woman, father of a Black daughter (& recently a Black son), professional, who happens to be “decent,” Black man who spends a great deal of his time navigating white supremacy and being confronted with “integrity” or “sanity,” to write a book that validates the experience that comes with all of those things. (Right fist double pound the spot on my chest near my heart). Keep shining!

9 people found this helpful

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Hilarious and brilliant

This is the only biography I’ve ever read and will likely ever read because Damon’s stories, perspectives, and honesty stand out as brilliant, hilarious and eye opening. I read this because I met Damon years ago through my ex when they were working at Duquesne. And because since then I’ve read some of his writing. He’s memorable and his story - and storytelling - are too. Hopefully in the future, this will go into the library of congress for safe-keeping.

3 people found this helpful

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If there is one book you need, this is It!

I don’t think a book has made me laugh out loud, cry, give a “poetry snap”, ponder my existence, make me feel seen and related too more than this book. I have chapters broken out for required listening in general and certain ones for moments in like where I just can’t fully find the words/comfortable to explain something about the Black experience. I’m already like “Just go listen to chapter 7 and then we can talk.” I think Damon’s writing style and performance was brilliant. This is a must grab and goes on my must read list for every Black person right next to “Between the World and Me.”

2 people found this helpful

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what a great read

funny, poignant and highly introspective. highly recommend this book and how accessible it is .

2 people found this helpful

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This made my heart smile !

This opened my eyes to the inside scoop of a black man! It made me laugh and delve into introspection at the same time! As a black woman, I can relate to the double lives lived in the white community and black community and this this spoke to a lot of the internal thoughts and feelings I’ve encountered throughout my life! Literary genius!

2 people found this helpful

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One of the best books I've read.

This is a seminal work that should be added to the canon of work describing what it means to be Black in America alongside Wright, hooks, Coates and Obama. For a Black Pittsburgher, it's a coup de gras that epitomizes what we feel, but cannot articulate. Damon did it for us.

4 people found this helpful

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Awesome Insight into the Black American Male

This memoir in essays is a great insight into the true thoughts of your average, youngish, black male. Damon Young takes his time to filter through many of the key important topics of his entire life; from adolescence to adulthood (specifically fatherhood). He looks at those cultural tropes that generally define the specific milestones of growing up black in less affluent neighborhoods. He discusses how those milestones may or may not be self imposed or hyped up by just wanting to have that story to tell. Young gives you his raw thoughts and then shows how he comes to realize that those raw thoughts can be insensitive. As he matures, he comes to grips with the reality that he is not always the victim and sometimes his existence, being black and/OR male, can create a fear, concern, and sense of unease in others. Its an introspective book that uses real experiences and some mild humor to paint the picture of how much the average black male has to go through, what he has to think about, and what he has to bear in mind at all times.

My only criticism: His enunciation is horrible lol. Some of his words mush together as he reads somewhat quickly. Its easy to ignore about 98% of the time. But there are some words you wish you could get the full enunciation.

1 person found this helpful

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Slow start, strong middle and finish.

Honestly, the beginning was just a little too graphic with me. Strong writing, nice job weaving separate essays into an overall theme. I liked that it was unapologetically black and did not feel any need to comfort white tears. Especially loved the chapter on playing basketball. Authentic voice of inner thoughts.

1 person found this helpful