The co-founder and editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas documents the evolution of a city, a family, and a man using language that runs the gamut from irreverent to uproarious.
The author, who is also a columnist for GQ, provides an inward-looking examination of the foibles, desires, and fears of a black man attempting to make his way in the world, the questions he asks along the way, and the destructive forces (sometimes controllable, sometimes not) that threaten to break him. This cultural landscape is steeped in the legacy of America’s domestic immigrants who carved paths out of the South and into the steel and mining towns of Pennsylvania. Young’s aspirational personal story parallels the trajectories of other descendants of the Great Migration. By sharing snapshots of his growth from adolescence into adulthood, he offers a glimpse into the crucible that shaped his personality and his politics, both of which came to define the aesthetic of VerySmartBrothas. But where VSB is rooted in the transactional here and now, the author’s memoir explores the template upon which white supremacy is based and the recurring themes of oppression that permeate every aspect of black life in America. That Young does this vis-à-vis the tragicomedy of his own experiences makes each vignette that much more poignant. Everyone in America has some level of adjacency to the N-word: how it’s used, how it’s received, and the context in which the usage is deemed acceptable (or not). In addition to mining that explosive aspect of the cultural landscape, Young also looks at the extreme lengths to which men will go in search of love; how to know when to talk and when it’s time to listen; and the fear of failing ones’ family and how that sometimes manifests poorly in black men as opposed to more successful strategies employed by their partners. Health disparities, gentrification, and low expectations operating as a de facto form of violence on the bodies and minds of black people are among the author’s many prescient themes.
Young sharply conveys important truths with powerful effect.