I’m recommending that you check out They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, a phenomenal collection of essays by Hanif Abdurraqib, a Columbus, OH-based writer, poet, and critic. Abdurraqib is foremost a music critic, and I am mostly clueless when it comes to music, but that didn’t stop me from loving his essays. He interweaves his sharp insights about punk bands with memoir and anecdotes from his life, resulting in maximum emotional impact. As one Goodreads reviewer put it, “I’d never cried while reading an essay about Fall Out Boy before, so that was new.” Abdurraqib doesn’t just write about music, though. His essays are about America; what it means to be Black and Muslim in America; tennis, specifically Serena Williams’s success; police stops; and more.
Some people aren’t into non-fiction writing that involves a first-person perspective—it’s the sort of thing that I love, though, and They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us wouldn’t be what it is without its element of memoir. There’s a beauty to Abdurraqib’s implicit argument that we cannot separate music from our lives and memories, and that’s often what ties us to specific tracks or albums.
Finally, as a sort-of writer myself, I’m jealous of all the clever, smart titles that accompany Abdurraqib’s essays. My favorite: “Johnny Cash Never Shot A Man In Reno. Or, The Migos: Nice Kids From The Suburbs.”
Check out They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us here.
Link to where you can buy this book: https://bookshop.org/books/they-can-t-kill-us-until-they-kill-us/9781937512651