Humorist and writer Damon Young gives latest talk in WC’s Sophie Kerr Series

By Grace Apostol

News Co-Editor

The Sophie Kerr Lecture Series and the Harwood Lecture Series started another year at Washington College. 

On Thursday, Sept. 29, at 4:30 p.m. in the Rosie O’Neill Literary House, author of  “ What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker” Damon Young came to talk to the Chestertown and College communities on the art of “finding the funny.” 

Young is also a humor columnist for the Washington Post Magazine, founder of the blog “VerySmartBrothas,” and creator and host of the podcast “Stuck with Damon Young.” He attended Canisius College in Buffalo, Ny. 

 According to the biography page on The Washington Post site, Young is a Pittsburgh, Pa. native who “was a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and a columnist for GQ” and has “written for the Atlantic, Esquire, NY Mag, the Undefeated, Ebony, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.” 

Earlier in the day before the afternoon event, Young spoke to Visiting Assistant Professor Sufiya Abdur-Rahman’s class, “Commentary and Criticism.”

The event began with Professor Abdur-Rahman introducing Young to the audience. 

“I was very lucky that Damon accepted my invitation to come and speak to my Commentary and Criticism class,” she said. “Damon Young is the author of “ What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker .”, a memoir in essays which won the 2020 Barnes and Noble Discover Award and the 2020 Thurber Prize for American Humor.” 

Professor Abdur-Rahman discussed praises of different organizations regarding Young’s work, including the NPR, who said, “Young never tries to make it easy for readers.”

Damon then took the stand to read an excerpt from his novel, which in the last chapter that, addresses his daughter, titled “Zoe.”

“She might not yet know what the word paradox means, but she will know that what I have taught her is paradoxical,” Young said, reading from his excerpt. 

After his reading, Young sat down with Professor Abdur-Rahman to answer questions from her and  audience members regarding his work and time as a writer. 

“Telling the truth, I feel it matters, but is incidental, sometimes it’s even accidental, only because I have so much fun, and writing is such an extension of who I am,” Young said regarding a question asked by an audience member on if Young felt more like a writer or a truth-teller. 

Young also revealed that he had two other books in the works. The first of these is an Anthology regarding Black American Humor. 

“Anthology on Black American humor where the premise is that Black American Humor is the best American Humor… I’m gathering 25 of the dopest and the weirdest writers and academics and comedians I know to contribute and write essays and stories and histories, etc. all revolving around that same general premise,” he said.

Young said that the second work would consider money and how it affects him. 

“It’s an ongoing conversation with my agent, where we are always volleying ideas back and forth with each other, and money is something that I have always been obsessed with,” he said.

After the question and answer portion of the event, four of Young’s books were raffled off to audience members, who could then get their copy signed by Young himself. 

Professor Abdur-Rahman thanked Young for his time and asked him to sign copies of his book that both students and community members owned. 

Young offered some insight on being a budding writer at the College. 

“I think that you have a community here,” he said. “You should be collaborating, you should be critiquing, you should be editing each other, pushing each other, and competing against each other. Competition doesn’t have to be a cut-throat sort of thing, competition could just be everyone is united to try to push yourselves to be as good as you can possibly be.”

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