Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays” as Want to Read:
What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  2,731 ratings  ·  441 reviews
From the cofounder of, 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 brea
Audiobook, 9 pages
Published March 26th 2019 by HarperAudio
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,731 ratings  ·  441 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
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
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Performance isn't something exclusive to your favorite artist or to some of your faves whom you follow on Social Media. No, performance is something that dominates all of our lives. Moving respectfully, staying out of trouble, filtering our speech, amongst other things. Simply put: Performance is ubiquitous.

A particular performance that has been held under the spotlight lately, for better or worse, is masculinity, Especially that of the heterosexual variety. If you are looking for a good example
chantel nouseforaname
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
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This memoir in essays by the blogger known for Very Smart Brothas was very smart, very funny, keen-sighted, outraged, yet often self-deprecating and revealing on blackness at every level and scale,--family life, being broke, being a black man hoping to be loved by black women, being a black man trying to get ahead. The pressure of performing blackness and black male-ness and searching for his own authenticity within that pressure to perform, and how to think of and deal with society's all pervas ...more
Traci at The Stacks
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.
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
After reading what he thinks about his writing on rape (basically he wouldn't want to deal with being called out again because it wasn't very fun, but he stands by his comments and just wished he was more articulate about them,) I did some reading (I hadn't heard about this controversy until this book.)

The worst things he said are left out of his book (as far as I noticed) such as suggesting we "educate women" not to drink too many shots on the "first, second, or third date..." lest they be rap
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd never heard of Damon Young, and it wasn't until I was deep into the book that I learned he was a successful blogger back when blogging was young and still cool, writing something called VSB (which means "Very Smart Brothas," which still can be found online by adding dot com).

These essays meander off topic at times, but there's no denying they are often funny and entertaining and, especially for white readers who are cave smart but not street smart, revelatory. Getting the POV of someone wit
Amy Bruestle
I won this book through a giveaway in exchange for an honest review....

First off, I must say, Damon man, you are quite HILARIOUS! A+ as far as humor goes! The only down side to this book for me was that I felt like a few of the different chapters were just a bit drug out and repetitive. However, all in all, one of the best memoir style books I have read so far!
Tiffany Reads
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This memoir was not designed for a reader like me. There were so many cultural and basketball references I did not get or understand. And, at the same time, especially toward the end, the author's dissertations on racism and white supremacy should be required reading for everyone.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Julie Christine
"So much of the national dialogue about race deals with either terrible trauma or black excellence," Young said. "I was more interested in the space in between, because that’s where I exist." Damon Young, in The New York Times, March 2019.

I love this, in all the ways that I love when writers examine those in-between spaces of theme, language, character, place. Reading this gave me the space to enter into a conversation with Damon Young while reading his raw, irreverent and fun-as-hell-to-read c
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-review
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 ...more
Aaron S
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dear Damon Young,
Thank you for writing this book. Early on you said you wanted to write something that you would’ve wanted to read. I hope this lived up to your expectations because it far exceeded mine. I listened to you on a panel at Los Angeles Time Festival of Books and thought it was easily one of the top three panels/discussions I’ve ever heard at that event. The book was excellently crafted with exceptional diction and topic arrangement. I will and have recommended this to many people a
This is, quite simply, one of the best books I've ever read -- not only because it so funny, so well crafted and so openly honest, but because it opened up a parallel universe for me, into the everyday experience of blackness in America that, in this case, is literally right next door to me.

Damon Young is a writer who expresses his wisdom at the site in Pittsburgh. He also grew up in East Liberty, the Pittsburgh neighborhood where my church is located, where I shop, and whic
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 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 ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Damon Young provides the reader a look at the peculiarities of the Blackness from a Black male perspective with a mix of honesty, hubris and humor. Certainly, these essays will resonate with those in the tribe. But, the prose is inviting enough to pull in any reader interested in the lives lived from the edge. Damon names the introduction, Living While Black Is An Extreme Sport and writes,

“This hypercognizance of both my blackness and what the possession of blackness in America is supposed to me
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
***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--
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-favorites
I’ve never read a book that touched me on such a personal level. Damon Young perfectly described the neighborhood that raised me. The neighborhood that I no longer recognize thanks to gentrification. Every restaurant & lounge that he mentioned was familiar. His funny stories about his best friend resonated with me because that’s exactly how I remember Brian from high school. I swooned when he talked about the book release party that sparked his relationship with his wife. I was at that party. Wh ...more
Aqura (engineersreadtoo)
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 ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That last chapter...
Jared Gulian
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Until we are able to download someone else’s consciousness into our brain in order to fully understand how the world looks from their perspective, I will continue to read memoirs from people with very different life experiences from my own. These essays are smart and insightful and sometimes funny. They opened up my brain in new ways to what it’s like to be a black American.

I was bothered by the overabundance of the N-word and the F-word, but Young wasn’t writing to please people bothered by th
Jenny Shank
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it

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 Pittsburgh 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
Ebony Rose
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this far more than I expected (mostly because I had NO idea who this author was before hearing him on an episode of the Death, Sex and Money podcast with Kiese Laymon, which was recommended to me by a friend (thanks, Camille!!)). So I went into it sort of blind, but this was a fantastic reading experience for me.

A laugh-out-loud-funny memoir that displays an immense (and sometimes shocking) level of honesty, accountability, wit and keen observations about blackness and the world, Damon
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Young takes an unflinching look at America and race in this collection of essays/memoir. It's thought provoking and moving, and he is exceptionally good at using humor to make a point. I laughed out loud more than once and then stopped and thought, yeah - I hadn't thought about it that way before. In addition to the exploration and discussion on race, I also thought the sections on gender as performative were really interesting, in particular the idea of what you do or how you act specifically t ...more
Max G.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Morgan Gayle
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4 1/2 stars to be exact.
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most compelling chapters, for me, were the ones where Young talked about the women in his life: his wife, his mother, his daughter. This was perhaps slightly in conflict with the misogyny Young struggled with for much of his life. It's present in his writing, although it's obvious he's trying to push back against it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: No page count 3 312 Aug 22, 2020 10:42AM  
Goodreads Librari...: incorrect title 2 304 Jul 12, 2020 12:47PM  
Mt. Lebanon Publi...: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young 1 7 Jun 10, 2019 01:53PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Thick: And Other Essays
  • Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot
  • How We Fight For Our Lives
  • How to Be an Antiracist
  • The Death of Vivek Oji
  • Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues: Education for the Liberation of Black and Brown Girls
  • I'm Telling the Truth, but I'm Lying: Essays
  • The Vanishing Half
  • The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
  • Wow, No Thank You.
  • Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine
  • Heavy: An American Memoir
  • A Burning
  • Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership
  • So You Want to Talk About Race
  • Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower
  • I Don't Want to Die Poor: Essays
  • A Black Women's History of the United States
See similar books…

Articles featuring this book

There are many ways to take action against racism. Reading in order to learn more about oppression and how to oppose it is just one of those...
1485 likes · 242 comments
“It’s just too fucking much to always have to be angry and alert. To always have to be ready and willing to challenge whiteness. To always have a perfectly pithy tweet or a thousand-word screed ready in response to the next Trayvon Martin, the newest Sandra Bland, and the latest Eric Garner, and to feel all the same feelings again. And again. And again. I just wanted a fucking break.” 4 likes
“I was Pittsburgh Young, Black, and Successful. Pittsburgh Young, Black, and Successful meant Friday evenings downstairs at Savoy in the Strip District, and perhaps a table upstairs if it was your birthday. It meant Alpha and Que boat rides, NEED Scholarship dinners, and Ronald H. Brown Leadership Awards galas. It meant a stint on the Urban League Young Professionals executive board. It meant brunches at the LeMont on Mother’s Day and the Grand Concourse when you wanted to stunt. It meant frequent pictures in the Post-Gazette and the City Paper” 1 likes
More quotes…