Once you’ve been a part of The Root family, we will forever claim you (because Black excellence deserves Black pride). So, despite his recent departure from the daily grind of our beloved news and opinion site, we are collectively overjoyed that one of our closest homies, Very Smart Brothas co-founder Damon Young was awarded the 2020 Thurber Prize for American Humor for his memoir, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker. The win, bestowed by American Electric Power and Thurber House, was announced during a pre-recorded 2020 Rewind Thurber Prize for American Humor movie which Friday night; humorist Dave Barry for Letters from Lucy, and Kira Jane Buxton for Hollow Kingdom were runners-up for the prize.
“It was a tremendous honor to even be considered in a category with Kira and Dave (whose books were sublime),” Damon told The Root, “and I want to thank the Thurber House and the judges for choosing my collection of diabolically ashy recollections. Also I spent all the prize money at Red Lobster last night so don’t ask to borrow any...I bought 150 ultimate feasts.”
In case you forgot our very smart brotha’s illustrious credentials, Thurber House gave us a reminder, via press release:
Damon Young is the co-founder and editor in chief of VerySmartBrothas, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and a columnist for GQ. His debut memoir, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir In Essays, is a tragicomic exploration of the angsts, anxieties, and absurdities of existing while black in America. Damon uses honest humor to chronicle his 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 gentrify from predominantly Black to “Portlandia . . . but with Pierogies.”
In addition to $5,000 and a commemorative crystal plaque, Damon is in great company, joining previous winners Trevor Noah, who won in 2017 for Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood and our sister site The Onion, which won in 1999 for Our Dumb Century: 100 Years of Headlines from America’s Finest News Source .
“Thurber House, where laughter, learning and literature meet, was established to celebrate the written word for the education and entertainment of the broadest possible audience and continue the legacy of James Thurber,” the release also explained of the “living museum” in Columbus, Ohio, which is is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and open to the public daily from 1-4 p.m., and home to one of the country’s premier literary center.
You can watch the entire ceremony below.