The co-founder of VerySmartBrothas.com presents a provocative memoir-in-essays that explores the direct impact of racism on his life, the shifting definition of black male identity, and the ongoing realities of white supremacy.
In the 16 essays that make up the book, Young pulls readers into his world, showing them his vulnerability, hitting them with unflinching honesty about the state of race relations in this country, and keeping them glued to the pages with his wit and humor. While this is presented as a memoir in essays, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker is more of a personal collection of independent essays that offer a look at the life of one man. It is also a collection that serves as an authentic, keen, and touching example of the black male experience. Reading Young's essays is often an uncomfortable experience because he doesn't shy away from ugly truths. There is a lot of funny writing here, but also pain, insecurity, loss, and injustice ... The beauty of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker is that Young never tries to make it easy for readers. He shows his righteous anger. He presents inequality. And he uses the N-word ... There are two somewhat meandering essays at the end of the book that could have used a stronger edit, but that aside, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker is an outstanding collection of nonfiction that encapsulates the black male experience — and demands change. Young is a talented writer and sharp cultural critic. He created something special with this timely and powerful book. It, like the work of bell hooks and Roxane Gay, should be required reading.
In this memoir in essays, we learn about Young through 16 pieces that are ostensibly about something else ... 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 ... If Young were a soul-food restaurant and What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker were his current menu, not every dish would succeed. Some essays fail to showcase Young’s loftiest ideas, and the book gets off to a slow start. Still, the overall menu is outstanding ... the kind of offering that’s so good even those of us who frequented the joint before word got out will end up hoping this chef will get his due and the line to see what he’ll cook up next will stretch around the block.
A passionate, wryly bittersweet tribute to Black life in majority-white Pittsburgh ... [Young's] barbed riffs on gentrification, Black barber shops, basketball, appropriate use of the word 'nigga,' and the obtuseness of white privilege are sharply observed ... A must read.