Sarah Jensen's Reviews > They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us

They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib
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it was amazing

We still have two months left in 2019, but I feel confident that I can go ahead and say it: This was my favorite read of the year.

In essays that are poignant, thoughtful, and poetic, Hanif writes about love, heartbreak, violence against Muslims, violence against the black community, losing loved ones, losing friends. Each essay is always kind and gentle, and always centered around music. He talks about what music means to us as human beings. How we need it. He writes about Carly Rae Jepsen, Chance the Rapper, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Serena Williams, Migos, Allen Iverson, Fall Out Boy... You get the idea. He writes some notes on staying, on kindness, on his mother. This is the book I wish I had written.

I don't know if I'm really selling it, because sometimes there are books you simply cannot explain. They sit too close to your heart. This is that book for me. In a time (the book was published in 2017, just after America elected Trump. But we're all still in that same place) when America is confused, hurt, disillusioned, angry, I don't think there's a book we needed more.

In one of my favorite essays titled Under Half-Lit Fluorescents: The Wonder Years and The Great Suburban Narrative, Hanif writes about what it was like to grow up in a poor, predominantly black neighborhood right next to a white suburban neighborhood. How, at the time, he couldn't understand how anyone in that neighborhood could ever be sad. The essay is centered around The Wonder Years' third album, Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing. It's about finally understanding, as all of us do, that sadness is universal. Hanif writes:

"Home is where the heart begins, but not where the heart stays. The heart scatters across states, and has nothing left after what home takes from it. I know the suburbs best by how they consumed the kids I knew in my teenage years: the punk kids, the emo kids, the soccer kids, the kids who came out to the basketball courts with the black kids to play the way they couldn't in their backyard. So many of us, especially teenagers, strive to be something we're not. Escape is vital, in some cases, as a survival tool. Once, I never knew how anyone who lived in a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood could be sad. Sometimes, when you know so much of not having, it is easy to imagine those who do have as exceptionally worry-free....

I understand what it is to be sad, even when everyone around you is demanding your happiness - and what are we to do with all of that pressure other than search for a song that lets us be drained of it all?"
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Reading Progress

November 2, 2019 – Started Reading
November 4, 2019 – Shelved
November 4, 2019 – Finished Reading

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