Winner: Damon Young
Damon Young has been putting Pittsburgh on the map for years with his smart prose and hot takes on Black culture on Very Smart Brothas, the online magazine he co-founded with Washington, D.C. writer Panama Jackson. Their site is now hosted on The Root, one of the nation’s largest Black media sites, and his work has also appeared in GQ magazine and The New York Times. But it’s with this year’s release of his memoir What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker, about growing up Black in Pittsburgh, that Young has received critical acclaim. It’s landed him a book tour and spots on national lists, including NPR’s Favorite Books of 2019. And for good reason. His book is a must-read, an honest look at a city that still has a long way to go, but one that has hope if people like Young are still creating inside of it.