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What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker

A Memoir in Essays
Narrated by: Damon Young
Length: 8 hrs and 11 mins
5 out of 5 stars (45 ratings)

Regular price: $27.37

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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

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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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Diamonte
  • Pittsburgh, PA, United States
  • 03-29-19

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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This is a thoughtful and funny book.

I thought this book was really interesting and I appreciated the author for writing it, for his vulnerability, for his insight into black culture and the black experience. Definitely worth a read.

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I wanted to like it, but...

Performance is really poor. I had to slow tape to understand what was being said. Most of it sounds like it is being read by someone seriously congested and with lisp. But I don’t believe I would have been more engaged if I had picked up the book. You get the clear message that the author was from the hood and, at least in his mind, he is still there. And for me, that is the disappointment. The book leaves no sense of evolution, broader understanding. Nothing anyone can hold onto to help lift them up and out. Given what this is, the title offends me. Being black, or blacker in this book is simply being more angry and more obscene. He uses the “N” word like wallpaper. I’d like to treat his detailed dissection of the ways it can be used as profound, but I found his extended defense just stupid, wrong, and a resistance to come up. Overall, the book is too soon. The book lacks depth and perspective. I did appreciate that Pittsburgh landmarks were interwoven into the fabric of the book. Reminds me of my old haunts.

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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.

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Great essays and insights

In the tradition of August Wilson’s, Pittsburgh glimpses, Young is raw, funny, vulnerable, insightful. It’s an easy and emotional listen. I couldn’t take my headphones out sometimes.

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Not what I was expecting

I had been looking forward and waiting for this a long time.
I couldn't decide between 2 or 3 stars overall.
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.

I would also have loved for someone else to read this book.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful