Readers will discuss the second selection of the Adda Book Club, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker, on Tuesday, October 27 at 7 P.M. A link with directions will be sent to members who joined through the Adda Book Club website.

Early book orders for this event have now closed. Copies can now be purchased through our digital storefront here.

Discussion leader: Josephine Posti

For Damon Young, existing while Black is an extreme sport. The act of possessing black skin while searching for space to breathe in Americais 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: 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; provoking the angst that made him question if  “being straight” was something he could practice and get better at, like a crossover dribble; and generating the surreal experience of watching his Pittsburgh neighborhood getrify 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.

Read the reviews:

“His essays are pointed, ruminative, often barbed and funny reflections on how the fact of his skin color has posed particular lifelong challenges, questions, and anxieties.” (“Weekend Edition,” NPR)

“With candor, self-awareness and considerable humor, [Young] turns an unflinching eye on both himself and an American society constructed and sustained by racism.” (Washington Post)

“The VerySmartBrothas.com cofounder and senior editor for The Root has already established himself as one of our most vibrant voices on race. Now comes his first book, a blazing memoir in essays.” (Entertainment Weekly, “20 Great New Books to Read this March”)

“One of the freshest, most impor¬tant black voices on the internet.” (Mother Jones)

“Authentic, keen, and touching . . . The beauty of What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker is that Young never tries to make it easy for readers. . . this timely and powerful book. . . like the work of bell hooks and Roxane Gay, should be required reading.” (NPR)

“Readers who know Young’s work from the blog he co-founded, Very Smart Brothas, will recognize his voice, his fondness for lists, his precise, comprehensive and spectacular references to pop culture, his wit and his keen mind.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Fans of Young’s posts on VSB will recognize the wit, but these essays dig deeper than his typical blog posts. Here, you see his vulnerability and insecurities.” (Pittsburgh City Paper)

“Brave, incisive and witty. . . an essential American voice . . . Young is . . . the American writer who could bridge our racial divide . . . Sometimes as profanely magnificent as a Richard Pryor routine, but just as often droll in the vein of David Sedaris.” (Pittsburgh Quarterly)

“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)

A Finalist for the NAACP Image Award

A Finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction

Longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

An NPR Best Book of the Year

Washington Independent Review of Books Favorite of the Year