A Book So Good it Defies Description: They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

27 Feb

They Can't Kill Us
Have you ever really loved a book, but had a hard time describing it to everyone? They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is one of those books for me. I loved it so much and told everyone I could about it, but every time they’d ask me, “Oh, so what’s it about?” I would pause and then manage to stutter something along the lines of “Uhh, it’s about music, but not just music, it’s like…uhhh”

OKAY, take a seat. I’m about to settle this once and for all. They Can’t Kill Us is a collection of essays by Hanif Abdurraqib. In these essays, Abdurraqib essentially describes the world in which he lives through the lens of what’s dearest to him: pop culture. When you start reading, you can immediately tell what moves Abdurraqib the most: music. From Fall Out Boy to Whitney Houston, Chance the Rapper to Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac to Carly Rae Jepsen, there’s something for everyone. Have you ever wondered about the connection between Johnny Cash and Migos? Rejoice! You’ve found your match!

But these aren’t simply essays about music and sports and what have you. Abdurraqib covers the loss of loved ones, what it’s like to be black in a mostly white punk scene, what it’s like to navigate today’s America with an Arabic name, and so much more.

There are two things that are evident to me when reading Abdurraqib’s work. The first is his background in poetry. Even though this is a book of prose, the way he works language is poetic and an absolute joy to read. At the end of each essay, I’d find myself exhaling sharply – something I usually do after reading a particularly poignant poem. The second thing that is clear is that these are the words of a man who writes with passion. For me as a reader, there is nothing more delightful.

I haven’t (nor will I ever be able to) read all the books in the universe, but I am fairly confident that in the future, people will say that Hanif Abdurraqib was one of the greatest writers of our time. A lofty thing to say, I know! So check it out for yourself and let me know if you think I’m right or wrong.  Let us know in our comment sections who you think are some of the greatest writers.

Hoboken resident library card holders can head over to Hoopla and Freegal to stream some of the music Abdurraqib mentions in his book and more great tunes that will inspire you!

Written By:
Samantha Evaristo
Library Outreach Assistant

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