What We Are Reading Today: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young

Updated 04 April 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young

  • Young fires an admirable volley into the robust field of memoirs by black American men

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker chronicles author Damon Young’s efforts to survive while battling and making sense of the various neuroses his country has given him.

In his debut collection, Young fires an admirable volley into the robust field of memoirs by black American men. 

The book bridges his notable start as the co-founder and editor of the popular blog Very Smart Brothas and his most recent career as a cultural critic for mainstream publications. 

“Like many young men who have publicly come of age during the black feminist theory era of popular culture, Young knows the right things to say. He knows that sex work can be predatory and that rape is violence and that heteronormativity is oppressive. Whether Young has figured out how to actually live these beliefs remains elusive,” Tressie Mcmillan Cottom said in a review published in The New York Times. 

A review published in goodreads.com said: “A thoughtful look at what it means to be a black man in Pittsburgh and in America. 

Surprisingly I related to much of his experience as my own as a man living in this city despite me coming from a privileged upbringing. There are pieces here that are humorous and others marked by poignancy.”


A poetic reflection on what it means to be Muslim in Europe

Updated 17 June 2019
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A poetic reflection on what it means to be Muslim in Europe

  • Rahmani is an Algerian-born writer, art-historian and academic
  • Her first novel in the series, “France,” was about her father — a Harki, an Algerian soldier in the Algerian War who fought for the French

CHICAGO: From France comes the second book in Zahia Rahmani’s trilogy, “Muslim: A Novel” Delving deep into identity loss, displacement, misrepresentation and monolithic labels, Rahmani’s book moves between Algeria and France and the political and societal pressures of being both Muslim and European. The circumstances of her birth and the past have always been dictated by conditions beyond her reach and have forced upon her the loss of language and her own history.  

In unadulterated lyrical prose, Rahmani grapples with the circumstances of her life. She writes, “I was forced to lose myself in the century of errors that came before me,” disclosing that her life has never been her own. She was “born in 1962 in a society between times.” After moving to France at the age of five, Rahmani realized her life had changed once she began to lose her language Tamazight, a Berber language spoken by the people of Kabylie in the Aures Mountains, one that was never written down.

Remembering Quranic stories, her mother’s folktales and her own memories, Rahmani draws parallels with her own life to try and understand her fate. She has spent most of her time imprisoned and mislabeled as an Arab, or French, or an immigrant — even though she identifies as none of these.

Rahmani’s language flows freely like water, despite the weight of her words and their inferences. Her writing is impactful and profound as she attempts to close the gaps in herself, trying to understand her own identity or, rather, one that has been forced upon her.

Rahmani is an Algerian-born writer, art-historian and academic. Her first novel in the series, “France,” was about her father — a Harki, an Algerian soldier in the Algerian War who fought for the French. After being exiled from their home, the family sought refuge in France but faced severe discrimination.

“Muslim: A Novel” was originally published in 2005 then translated by Matt Reeck, a poet and translator, from French into English and published by Deep Vellum in 2019.