10 Quick Things About What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker, an Upcoming Memoir in Essays From Damon Young

Illustration for article titled 10 Quick Things About What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker, an Upcoming Memoir in Essays From Damon Young
Photo: Sarah Huny Young (Ecco Books)

1. You wrote a book???

Yes, I did.

2. Since when are you writing books and shit???

It’s right there in my bio, man. But just in case you didn’t read—and you very obviously didn’t—in the fall of 2016, I signed a two-book deal with Ecco Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. This is the first book.


3. Awesome! What is it about?

It’s a look at some of the absurdities, angsts and anxieties of existing while black in America. It’s also about masculinity, white supremacy, economic anxiety, Pittsburgh, basketball, parenthood, my parents, porn, the beauty and utility of being a nigga and the word “nigga,” lies, and bacon. (Yes, there’s an entire chapter where a plate of buffet bacon might be the main character in it.)

Some of it is totally, completely, absolutely ridiculous. The first chapter (“The Nigger Fight Story”) for instance, is about how, when I was 17, I hadn’t yet been called a nigger to my face. But I wanted to, just so I could beat up the white person who called me one and have a suitable nigger-fight story like the great ones my parents had.

And some of it is very sobering, as “Living While Black Killed My Mom” definitely is.

4. Damn.


5. So it’s all new stuff and nothing repurposed from VSB?

Yup. Of course, some of the themes addressed in the book have been discussed on VSB before, but this is all new stuff.

6. How does it feel, writing and publishing something so personal?

Honestly? Vulnerable as fuck. There’s stuff in there I’ve never actually admitted to anyone and just barely (and just recently) admitted to myself. I’m excited and I’m scared.


7. So it’s like colonoscopy prep?

You know, that actually wouldn’t be the worst analogy ever.

8. Who did that fucking cover? My god!

My cousin, Sarah Huny Young, of course.

9. When is the release date?

March 26, 2019.

10. Shit, that’s a few months away. Can I preorder?

Of course. Here’s the link. Preorder the fuck out of it.


Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)




I thought that I was the only one that wanted to experience a “Nigger... Fighting Story” when I was a naive kid.

But I wanted to fight a Pollyanna-looking chick.

When it did happen, I was sixteen. I was walking from school and I was called ‘a nigger’ from a passing car. I was smart enough to know my limits.

But I eventually got my fighting moment, back in college. Another white guy. Drunk-as-hell. I was doing a “bar walk” back to my campus with seven friends, when he shouted out “Niggers”.

There were eight of us. One of him.

It was like seven black cats and a chubby golden Tabby (our white friend, Maggie was there) attacking a big golden retriever.