10 Probably Not All That Interesting Reasons Why I Got the Title of My Book Tattooed on My Arm

that’s me and shit
Photo: Damon Young

Hello. My name is Damon Young. My debut memoir, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker, is available for preorder. If you haven’t already, go ahead and preorder a few.

I am, as you can imagine, excited about this. (Terrified too, for reasons I might share here at some point between now and March, but mostly anxious and excited.) So excited, in fact, that two months ago I went out and got a tattoo of the book title on my arm. Why would I do such a thing? Glad you asked.


1. Because I’m a nigga, and niggas sometimes do nigga shit. While the standard of what constitutes verified nigga shit is somewhat arbitrary and variable, permanently etching the title of your book on your arm qualifies.

2. Because beneath that tattoo is a tattoo of a skeleton key that I got in 2003. For the past several years—maybe from as far back as a month after I got it—I’ve been wanting to replace that tattoo with something else. I didn’t hate it. I just thought it was in a strange position and wasn’t big enough to justify the real estate on my arm it took up.


3. Because I think it looks cool.

4. Because, although I can’t exactly be objective about it, I think I have a pretty damn cool title. (And cover!) It’s so pretty damn cool that I was surprised no one had used it yet.


5. Because it kinda matches this tattoo on my left forearm, which says “black people are the window and the breaking of the window” six times—a statement I saw in an exhibition I was part of last year, a collaboration between the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Studio Museum of Harlem.

also meeeeeeeee
Photo: Damon Young

6. Because I have the privilege of having an occupation where things like “arms full of tattoos” just don’t matter, so why not?

7. Because I plan to get a quite extensive image done that will cover most of my right forearm (with space made for the tattoo that’s there currently), and I needed to gauge my pain tolerance.


8. Because I need to sell a shitload of copies of this book and I want y’all to see it each time y’all see me so it’s embedded in y’all’s brains and well, y’all should just be grateful this ain’t on my forehead.

9. Because, for years, the only thing that prevented me from getting more tattoos (I got my first two in 2003) is not thinking of something that mattered enough to me and was personal enough to me and was singular enough to be unique. But over the past 18 months, I’ve had a few “Eureka, motherfucker!” moments.


10. Because I think you might have forgotten already about #1.

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About the author

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB and a columnist for GQ.com. His debut memoir in essays, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins), is available for preorder.