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They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us

4.58  ·  Rating details ·  3,448 ratings  ·  569 reviews
In an age of confusion, fear, and loss, Hanif Abdurraqib's is a voice that matters. Whether he's attending a Bruce Springsteen concert the day after visiting Michael Brown's grave, or discussing public displays of affection at a Carly Rae Jepsen show, he writes with a poignancy and magnetism that resonates profoundly.

In the wake of the nightclub attacks in Paris, he recall
Paperback, 291 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Two Dollar Radio
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Vee The title is taken from a sign at a protest the author saw. It means until you are killed you are alive, which is a central theme in the book.
Dana I think every YA section should include this book. The essays are short but densely packed. Thought provoking. Engaging. The kind of writing that…moreI think every YA section should include this book. The essays are short but densely packed. Thought provoking. Engaging. The kind of writing that tells kids that they, too, could write about what they know and about their lives.(less)

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4.58  · 
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 ·  3,448 ratings  ·  569 reviews

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Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2k17
I'd never cried while reading an essay about fall out boy before, so that was new
Samantha Irby
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, ebook, essays
"I'm not as invested in things getting better as I am in things getting honest."

Hanif Abdurraqib's essay collection 'They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us' was a stunner. Many pieces are about popular music and musicians - Chance the Rapper, Fall Out Boy, Bruce Springsteen, The Migos, and Johnny Cash - relating certain songs or memories of a live show to larger life subjects like death and grief, race, religion, and growing up.

Abdurraqib is a poet, and his essays show this background. Beauti
Lucy Dacus
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of those books where you read 20 pages, grab a pen and restart to take notes, and then abandon the pen at page 50 because you're underlining everything and making a mess of ink.
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had never heard of Hanif Abdurraqib (although I don’t read a lot of essay collections, so he might be more well-known in those circles), so it was by pure coincidence that I was in a local bookstore looking for Christmas presents and saw his book on the shelf of Staff Picks. If you want the short review, here it is: this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Not one of the best essay collections – best books, full stop.

Even though I read and enjoyed [title] by Chuck Klosterman, there was de
Book Riot Community
Poet, writer, and critic Willis-Abdurraqib has written a series of smart essays about music and his thoughts and feelings about it in relation to current events and culture, including the Springsteen concert he attended the day after visiting Michael Brown’s grave and seeing PDA at a Carly Rae Jepsen show. AND THAT COVER. W-o-w!

– Liberty Hardy


Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books:
An outstanding collection of essays about music, race, and life in contemporary America. Hanif is a black Muslim who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and his writing on being who he is in that Midwest space is out of this world good.

All of the essays have a connection to pop culture, and most to music, and it doesn't matter whether you know or like any of the thematic threadings of the pieces. They're about much, much more.

(And that Carly Rae Jepson piece!)

Those who love and laud Roxane Gay would do
chantel nouseforaname
I’ve never read anything like this. This is everything I never knew that music writing could be. I’ve never read this type of music writing in say, the pages of the rolling stone or anywhere else that’s popular. Our particular experiences as young black music writers, purveyors and absorbers of the culture, are not given the space to take shape and breathe like this and I love that Hanif Abdurraqib just lets loose what was in his soul on so many different fronts.

As a metalhead, hip-hop fan and
Alanna Why
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Did you feel my absence, Goodreads friends? I haven't been here in a while, it seems like I haven't been able to finish a book since September, a month that coincided with me finishing the Neapolitan Novels and moving away from my hometown for the first time. I tried to move on since Ferrante, but her unyielding prose put other author's words to shame and put me in a slump like no other, one that coincided with me being unemployed and cursed with reader's block.

They Can't Kill Us Until They Kil
Jason Diamond
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've read five stellar essay collections that came out in 2017 and this one might sit at the top of the pile. Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib has this way of laying out whatever it is he wants to discuss, then beautifully diving into it and taking the reader in directions they weren't expecting, but that all end up feeling totally right. Seeing Bruce Springsteen in 2016 turns into a meditation on something much bigger than simply seeing a rockstar; Ric Flair, growing up Black in the 1990s, Chance the Ra ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't adequately describe how much or just why I love this book so much. Hanif Abdurraqib writes so powerfully and with such insight about all the things we as a nation are grappling with right now.

[A note to potential readers: I loved this book out of the gate but a few essays about emo bands about 80 or so pages in gave me a bit of a stumble near the middle of the book, and I almost didn't finish. What a tremendous mistake that would have been. Perhaps I have been watching too much Olympic
Jak Krumholtz
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ahhh! Hanif is so good. My sister mailed me this book (not something we do) because it hit her. And it did the same for me. And he's from Ohio. And he's amazing. This book will move you. And may make you cry a few times. And make you want to look up artists you thought you had no interest in. (My Chemical Romance) My new favorite author. Please read.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are some books, man. Some books that just make you stop every few minutes and stare and close your eyes and let the unpunctuated words echo around a bit in your head and where every few chapters you've gotta steel yourself when you feel the feels. Prose as poetry, and when you're done you'll feel like you know Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib like you know your closest friends. This is one that sticks with you.
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
"Joy, in these moments, is the sweetest meal that we keep chasing the perfect recipe for, among a world trying to gather all of the ingredients for itself. I need it to rest on my tongue especially when I am angry, especially when I am afraid, especially when nothing makes sense other than the fact that joy has been, and will always be, the thing that first pulls me from underneath the covers when nothing else will. It is the only part of me that I have to keep accessible at all times, because I ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I L O V E D this. I forget where I saw it recommended but I almost didn't pick it up because it's a lot of music criticism of music I don't especially like, but it was overall so highly recommended that I checked it out. And I'm so glad I did!! The author is also a poet and you can definitely tell, his style is so beautiful and moving. Even when I'm not familiar with the artists, these essays are always about more than music. (I have to admit I did prefer it when I was familiar with an essay's s ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2017
Do you like excellent essays on subjects ranging from punk rock to familial complexities? Well then.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018
IQ "I'm not sold on pessimism as the new optimism. I need something that allows us to hope for something greater while confronting the mess of whatever all this blind hopefulness has driven us to. America is not what people thought it was before, even for those of us who were already familiar with some of its many flaws. What good is endless hope for a country that never runs out of ways to drain you of it? What does it mean to claim that president is not your own as he pushes the lives of those ...more
musa b-n
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really love books like this that I know will make me think for a really long time. Abdurraqib's turns of phrase are all so uniquely compelling that it's impossible to not get immediately absorbed and entangled every time I picked up reading again. This book of essays manages to, while talking about some incredibly sad and heavy facts of life and this country, still be unexpectedly joyous and inspiring. Another word I'd use to describe it is imperative. Abdurraqib's essays are funny, smiling, f ...more
Paisley Green
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As I sat in a teaching conference this week and heard someone scoff, "Kendrick Lamar winning a Pulitzer in music? Are you kidding? What has this world come to?", I'm eternally grateful for Hanif Abdurraqib's collection, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us. He is an essayist who clearly loves music, how it can render someone vulnerable but also provide the net to catch them, how it can both articulate and keep at bay one's encroaching inner darkness, how it reflects so much of culture and its s ...more
3.5 rounded down

An interesting collection - if at times a mixed bag - of essays.

The first half of the book is mostly essays about music and bands - including Cute Is What We Aim For (even typing their name makes me feel like it's 2006 again and I'm on Myspace or something), Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance among others. I have to admit that while I enjoyed the essays on those three bands I did end up skipping a couple of others, ones about bands or artists I had no interest in or had never hea
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, favourite-books
This is, single-handedly, the greatest music/culture book I have ever read. Two essays in and I felt that; two essays in and I was recommending it far and wide. It sustained across the whole collection. Hanif writes in a way that blows music out beyond a sub-culture; it's true that it bleeds into everyday life, but to see it articulated in such a way is surreal and fantastic as a reader and a music fan. He is basically what every music writer should aspire to, imo. He makes you feel a lot, even ...more
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been thinking about going back to school lately, asking myself when and how and why. That last one is the hardest--weird to think about further following my academic interests in writing and culture when it feels like the world is in critical need of other kinds of help. This collection was such a reminder of what writing can do. Not to replace other important parts of life, but to make sense of them, process them, reflect them back. I read it fast and then slow, picking it up less and less ...more
Patrick McG
When I got this book in the mail, I went a little crazy with the letter opener, leaving a long straight cut down the center of the cover.

I am sorry.

To have something this beautiful, so damaged.
Tim Hatton
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Abdurraqib is unmistakably a poet, and a poet’s love and attention for humanity and for rich language spill out of these essays.
Leah Horlick
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't think I'll ever stop thinking about this book. The gold (nay! platinum!) standard for writing on music, pop culture, grief, anti-Black racism, kinship, joy, and death.
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
breathtaking. a reminder of why I love words
So, once upon a time, I wanted to write for Rolling Stone when I grew up, and reading this book sort of immersed me back in that dream. One can write about music, politics, or culture, but to write about them all together is to acknowledge that for many of us, there exists a soundtrack to our experiences. And music has that ability to either brush up against our lives, conflict with our feelings, or fully hit us with the exact message or support that we need in that moment. You know, the "OMG, I ...more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I'm in awe of this book. Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib managed something beautiful with these pieces, and I found myself misty-eyed over his description of venues I've been to, cities I've lived in, and bands I've seen a hundred times. He weaves those stories delicately within a larger narrative about race, violence, and his own personal experiences. In this collection of essays published over the course of his career thus far as a pop culture critic, he manages to discuss Fall Out Boy, Nina Simone, B ...more
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A volume of sharp, insightful criticism about the intersections of music and culture, specifically punk, rap, and being a black, Muslim man who has often been the only brown face at a show, but also grief, loss, and hope. Abdurraqib is also a poet and it shows in the way he constructs his sentences: “No one decides when the people we love are actually gone. May we all be buried on our own terms.”
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I connected with pretty much every essay in this collection, especially all the ones about pop punk/emo.

I laughed, I cried, I felt the frustration of life all throughout this book. It was excellent; I enjoyed every minute reading it.
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Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. ...more
“I know that I stopped thinking about extreme grief as the sole vehicle for great art when the grief started to take people with it. And I get it. The tortured artist is the artist that gets remembered for all time, particularly if they if they either perish or overcome. But the truth is that so many of us are stuck in the middle. So many of us begin tortured and end tortured, with only brief bursts of light in between, and I'd rather have average art and survival than miracles that come at the cost of someone's life.” 14 likes
“It’s easy to convince people that you are really okay if they don’t have to actually hear what rattles you in the private silence of your own making.” 11 likes
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