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

Preserving the Historic Landscape of NJ: The Walker Atlas at the Hoboken Public Library

20 Feb

Greetings from the local history department at Hoboken Library! I’ve been hard at work preserving some of our most delicate items before we begin upcoming library renovations, and I’d like to highlight one in particular this month that I’m very fond of!

In 1876, an atlas of Bergen County, New Jersey was produced by A.H. Walker and published by his successor, C.C. Pease, out of Reading Publishing House in Reading, PA. The Walker Atlas of Bergen County, as the book has come to be known, was only printed once, which has naturally added to its allure for collectors and historians alike. In particular, an intact Walker Atlas in good condition is a holy grail of sorts for people passionate about New Jersey history, as it provides both invaluable historical information about the development of Bergen County. Finding an intact Walker, however, is incredibly difficult due to the fact that the maps and illustrative lithographs were valued for their artistic merits and were often pilfered. Walker Atlases were frequently dismantled, their contents sold separately, often framed to be displayed as art on the wall.

When I first came on board as the local history librarian/archivist back in May of 2018, I noticed that we had a Walker Atlas in the collection. Once I was more settled in and had completed my first major project, digitizing the vertical files, I decided that my next move would be to protect the Walker Atlas that we had as best as I could before renovations, so I called in the best Walker Atlas expert I knew; the fact that he happens to be my dad should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about my family and what we’re interested in as people. Although we had a completely intact Walker, it was coming apart and the pages were incredibly brittle. Note for those of you with rare books of your own at home: keep them dry, but also keep them cool.

I wasn’t about to let this Walker take damage, and I wanted it to be in a condition that would allow it to be handled by researchers without putting it at risk. That’s where archival sleeves come in; Mylar archival sleeves act in a way similar to lamination, but they’re a lot less dangerous to the materials, as laminating exposes them to heat. Generally, archivists will tell you to avoid laminating things at all costs – instead, slide them into acid-free mylar sleeves, which are both removable (in case something better comes along) and don’t risk damaging the materials you’re protecting.

It hurt my heart to do it, but I had to remove what was left of the binding of the Walker Atlas. Sometimes the best thing you can do to preserve a book of historic importance is to take it apart, especially when it’s printed on acidic paper to begin with and the binding is falling apart on you. Once the pages were separated, I took each one and placed it in its own separate sleeve. The pages are acidic, so sleeving them separately from one another prevents them from breaking each other down more. With all 167 pages safely sleeved, I returned the dismantled but much safer atlas to its acid-free archival box, and it was good to go!

Our Walker Atlas is now available for researchers to see for themselves! If anyone is interested in viewing this amazing piece of 19th century New Jersey history, please make an appointment with the history department by emailing or calling the library and I’ll be more than happy to pull it out for you to peruse at your discretion! I’m very proud of it and I’m incredibly excited to share it with the researching public.

Stay tuned for another update from the history department next month!

Have a Hoboken History Related question?  Email us at reference @ hoboken.bccls.org

Written by:
Steph Diorio
Local History Librarian/Archivist at the Hoboken Public Library

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