They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us
a collection of essays by
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The audiobook, narrated by the author, is now available.
* A 2018 "best book to give this holiday season" —TODAY (Elizabeth Acevedo)
* A Best Books of 2017 —Rolling Stone (2018), NPR, Buzzfeed, Paste Magazine, Esquire, Chicago Tribune, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, CBC, Stereogum, National Post, Entropy, Heavy, Book Riot, Chicago Review of Books, The Los Angeles Review, Michigan Daily
* An ABA 'December 2017 Indie Next List Great Reads' Pick
* A Midwest Indie Bestseller
Five-Year Hardcover Anniversary Edition of They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Nov. 2022):
Expanded Paperback Edition of They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us (May 2023):
Now available in hardcover for the first time, featuring three additional essays and a new afterword by author Jason Reynolds, and an introduction by author Eve L. Ewing, this five-year anniversary edition of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a celebration of the lyricism, brilliance, and endearing voice of a breakout writer.
Whether he’s attending a Bruce Springsteen concert the day after visiting Michael Brown’s grave, or considering public displays of affection at a Carly Rae Jepsen show, Abdurraqib writes with a poignancy and magnetism that resonates profoundly. In the wake of the 2015 Paris nightclub attacks, Abdurraqib recalls how he sought refuge as a teenager in music, at punk shows, and wonders whether the next generation of young Muslims will be afforded that same opportunity. While discussing the everyday threat to the lives of Black Americans, Abdurraqib recounts the first time he was ordered to the ground by police officers.
Described as “a collection of death-defying protest songs for the Black Lives Matter era*,” in these searing, unforgettable essays, Abdurraqib reflects on everything from Chance The Rapper and Nina Simone to Allen Iverson and Serena Williams, from summer crushes to the thrill of common joys in children. In his thoughtful consideration of music, culture, and daily life as a lens through which to view our world, Abdurraqib proves himself a bellwether for our times.
[*Walton Muyumba, Chicago Tribune]
Scroll to bottom for Goodreads reviews.
"With the depth and versatility of an immensely talented poet, and the strong perceptive wit of a cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib shows us in this collection of essays his tremendous ability to bend language to his will. For him, like it is for many of us, music is an entrance into a larger discussion of our emotions, and our collective cultural understanding... This book taught me something fresh about humanity with every turn of the page, and it will stay with me for a long time to come."
—Matt Keliher, Subtext (Minneapolis, MN)
"These are smart and thoughtful pieces, some about life as viewed through the lens of culture, such as his experience at a Carly Rae Jepsen show and his thoughts on attending concerts in the wake of the shootings in Paris. And some are about his experience as a Black man living in America."
—Liberty Hardy, Book Riot
"10 OF THE BEST ESSAY COLLECTIONS" (Feb 24, 2023)
"The award-winning poet, essayist, and culture critic's debut essay collection... was such an iconic first attempt, the book will be receiving a second act through a new hardback edition out this November (2022)."
—Kay Wicker, theGrio
"20 Black poets to know this National Black Poetry Day"
"With compassion, wit, and a bit of hopeful punk nihilism, these essays use music—punk, emo, hip-hop, and pop—to explore America from Ferguson to Chicago to the 'burbs."
—Chris Lee, Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee, WI)
"I loved, like beyond all measure, Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. It’s a collection of essays about music and culture that are written with such insight and tenderness that I read it in a day and immediately read the whole thing again... It’s spectacular."
—Samantha Irby, in The New York Times (May 10, 2018)
"Abdurraqib is just phenomenal. I don’t know what else to tell you. These sentences make me feel how I feel watching Simone Biles on a vault, or Shoma Uno on the ice, or anyone who is just impossibly fucking stellar at whatever they’re doing."
—Bryan Washington on They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us in The A.V. Club
"Bryan Washington’s 10 favorite books of the decade"
"I am always so moved by Abdurraqib's lyrical writing, which to me seems to occupy a genre of celebratory elegy that only he is capable of inhabiting. He weaves cultural criticism and personal memoir in such a beautiful way, making the two modes feel inevitably and inextricably bound."
—Jonny Sun, on They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us in The Week
"Jonny Sun recommends 6 emotionally powerful books"
"[Abdurraqib's] ode to 'Trap Queen' as the new 'I Will Always Love You' first caught my attention. I was instantly hooked."
—Questlove on They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us in Vulture
"Questlove’s 10 Favorite Books"
"'Brief Notes on Staying,' an essay in Hanif Abdurraqib’s 2017 book, inspired 'PLEASE STAY' (Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker lend vocals on the track). It’s about losing people and being exhausted, but needing to find a way to get through life."
—Lucy Dacus on They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us in Vanity Fair
"Hanif Abdurraqib's music writing possesses a singular, impossible magic—he cracks open the very personal nature of fandom with empathy and skepticism in equal measure."
—Jessica Hopper, author of The First Collection of Criticism By A Living Female Rock Critic and Night Moves
"Abdurraqib bridges the bravado and bling of praise with the blood and tears of elegy."
—Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin and To Float In The Space Between
"With They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, I felt like [Hanif Abdurraqib] encouraged more compassion out of me with every essay."
—Lucy Dacus, The Creative Independent
"Songwriter Lucy Dacus on the continued evolution of her creative practice, understanding your parents, navigating online spaces, and what it means to write with intention."
"Rhythmic repetition makes for roaring passages that beg to be read aloud, but for all his poetic muscularity, Abdurraqib understands the value of linguistic economy."
—Pete Tosiello, The Washington Post
"They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is by turns incisive, exciting, and insightful. It is a musical inventory of America’s past, present, and future... Abdurraqib writes about things we know in ways we don’t, and readers are sure to learn something if they stop and listen to this vital voice."
—Rebecca Valley, Drizzle Review
(Review of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us)
"One of the most vital books on music I read this year was the critic and poet Hanif Abdurraqib’s essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, which spoke so eloquently to the importance of making space for dreaming, laughing, and, of course, listening to joyful music in troubled times."
—Lindsay Zoladz, Slate
"The Ohio poet/critic digs deep into what it means to be American in our moment — and how much music has to do with it."
—Rolling Stone, The Best Music Books of 2018, (by Jon Dolan & Kory Grow & Rob Sheffield & Andy Greene & Will Hermes)
"This is an exceptional book of essays, and hearing it in Abdurraqib’s voice places an extra star on something that already has all the stars... Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, which is probably why I could listen to him read me a car manual and I’d hang onto every word."
—Jamie Canaves, BookRiot
"9 Recent Audiobooks Narrated By the Author That Your Ears Will Want To Hear."
"The spoken word poet’s pieces are deep, uncensored analyses of topics ranging from music to death, from culture to sports, saturated with the weight of his memories and experiences... There is something precious in how Abdurraqib’s writing transcends changes in emotion and in tone to flow so seamlessly from one topic to the next... In his writing, there is no separation between art and life. Each informs and intertwines with the other."
—Allison J. Scharmann, The Harvard Crimson
(Review of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us)
"Abdurraqib writes about the music he holds dear, and the experiences which have embedded this music in his life, with such lyricism that the writing nears music itself—and his love of the subject is palpable."
—Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed, Best Nonfiction Books Of 2017
"To say Hanif Abdurraqib writes about the music that’s the soundtrack to our lives is an understatement... Abdurraqib is taking the music many already enjoy and asking us to consider its more profound implications."
—Mandy Shunnarah, PANK Magazine
"The Personal, the Political, and the Musical: An Interview with Hanif Abdurraqib on They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us"
"An impactful and intensely readable collection of essays about music, culture, race—and where they intersect."
—Amy Stave, Changing Hands Bookstore (Arizona)
"They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us critiques our culture and politics through the lens of music. Lyrical but poignant, Abdurraqib’s essays make sharp observations about current events and pop culture as well as his experiences being black and Muslim in the US. A wholly refreshing, insightful, and powerful collection."
—Jarry Lee, BuzzFeed, "9 New Books We Think You'll Love"
"Abdurraqib is unflaggingly curious about the salvation that music brings, and the, intentional or not, consequences of listening."
—Lesley Jenike, Ploughshares
"Music, Violence, and Joy in They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us"
"Abdurraqib explores America through its popular culture."
—Jason Diamond, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, 2017 Favorites
"Life's poetry speaks in exaltation and profanity, triumph and cruelty, Michael Jordan and Carly Rae Jepsen. In this lyrical mosh pit, Hanif Abdurraqib uses music as a lens to meditate on the splendor and the squalor of the American experience with a brutal honesty borne of an uncompromising, punk rock sincerity. After all, this country was founded on the dance floor."
—Steven Warren, WORD Bookstores (Brooklyn, NY)
"There are times where Abdurraqib’s writing seems to physically overflow with emotion and urgency."
—Kylie Maslen, Kill Your Darlings
(Review of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us)
"Hanif's essays live at the intersection of music, race, and class. He blends the personal, the political, and the musical in beautiful ways. This was one of those books I never wanted to end."
—Mandy Shunnarah, Off the Beaten Shelf
(Review of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us)
"Excellent collection of essays on music, mortality and being black in America... magnetic and poignant, and tinged with heartache."
—Nikesh Shukla, The Guardian
"It would be a mistake to favor the writings on music over his other, excellent observations, recollections, and personal reflections, as they all simmer together and effect each other."
—Douglas Riggs, Bank Square Books (Mystic, CT)
"[Abdurraqib] invites us to acknowledge the unbridgeable gaps formed by centuries of history, to observe with respect the moments that don’t include us all, and to cherish all the more the opportunities we have for empathy, which bring us as close as we can get to harmony."
—Aida Amoako, Prospect
“Abdurraqib is concerned with life, with actuality and experience: he’s an artist in troubled times; may his writing shine some light on our own paths.”
—emilio Jesús Taiveaho, Carolina Quarterly
“Cartographies of Music, Refuge, and Survival”: A Review of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us
"Music nerds, rejoice! There are few critics alive today that can talk about music and culture with the same level of adoration and encyclopedic knowledge... [They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us is] ridiculously good."
—Gina Mei, Shondaland (28 Books You’ll Want on Your Nightstand This Fall)
"Masterful essays on music and what it means to be a fan of music by one of this generation’s strongest and most important voices. From punk rock to hip hop to Bruce Springsteen, this collection runs the gamut. It made me seriously re-evaluate Carly Rae Jepsen."
—Jason Jefferies, Quail Ridge Books (Raleigh, NC)
"As expansive in scope as it is rich in content... His writing is alive and breathing, criticism infused with stories, lived experience and emotion. For Abdurraqib, it’s never just a song, never just an artist; music is a lens through which he sees the whole world."
—Asif Becher, The Michigan Daily
(Review of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us)
"With a voice that rings clear off the page, Abdurraqib is an accomplished wordsmith, whose reflections on pop culture are intensely personal, political and utterly compelling."
"Abdurraqib will make you think critically about music and the culture it influences, and his thoughts will stay with you long after you’ve tunneled through... his wonderful book."
—Gabriela Tully Claymore, Stereogum, Recommended Reading 2017
"Poignant and important. Abdurraqib offers a perspective that connects music, art, and memory, with the political realities of our time."
—Angela Ledgerwood, Esquire, Best Books of 2017
“Establishes Abdurraqib as a major rock critic—polished and deft and original in a searchingly unpolished way."
—Robert Christgau, Barnes and Noble Review
"Funny, painful, precise, desperate, and loving throughout. Not a day has sounded the same since I read him."
—Greil Marcus, Village Voice
"Essential, gripping reading."
—Tobias Carroll, Pitchfork
"A much-needed collection for our time. [Abdurraqib] has proven to be one of the most essential voices of his generation.”
—Juan Vidal, NPR
"A collection of death-defying protest songs for the Black Lives Matter era."
—Walton Muyumba, Chicago Tribune, Best books of 2017
"Challenging and lyrical, his writing delivers compelling observations in bite-sized pieces, allowing you to digest the deeper ramifications of his insights."
—Frannie Jackson, Paste, The 20 Best Nonfiction Books of 2017
"It’s a little bit of comfort when you think about it, that... Abdurraqib has provided us with an essay collection that might help make some small sense of what’s going on."
—Vol. 1 Brooklyn, 'Hanif Abdurraqib’s Great American Essay Collection'
"Abdurraqib's poetic sentence makes me see fireworks in a new way. It ingeniously reverses their motion: Instead of tendrils of light exploding outward, overwriting the darkness, these fireworks gather the darkness into themselves. They are like teenagers stuffing their pockets with candy, ravenous for the night. Violent illuminations arriving, out of nowhere, to hoard the darkness. That would be something worth staring at."
—Sam Anderson, New York Times Magazine
"Abdurraqib unites familiar sounds with fresh observations about music and the state of contemporary America... essential, gripping reading."
—Tobias Carroll, Pitchfork, 16 Favorite Music Books of 2017
"Abdurraqib places the reader in front of the performer and commands them to see beyond the music, to glimpse the societal impact of popular performers and indie heroes alike, and how they reflect the culture that bears them."
—Paul Haney, Pleiades Magazine
"Abdurraqib’s essay collection on the convergence of identity politics, music, sports and culture feels important."
—National Post, The Best Books of the Year (2017)
"This tome stands as a bold statement for a great writer and a complete breath of life from a rare thinker."
—Erick Mertz, New Noise Magazine
"One of the stand-out essay collections of 2017."
—Alyse Bensel, The Los Angeles Review
"Abdurraqib writes facing his people... and draws the rest of us to the circle’s edge with his discerning eye."
—Julia Oller, Columbus Dispatch
"As powerful and touching as anything I’ve read this year, and Abdurraqib has emerged as the Ta-Nehisi Coates of popular culture."
—James Mann, The Big Takeover
"In his first essay collection, Abdurraqib... writes about America through the prism of its music."
—Jenny Shank, The Dallas Morning News, "5 enticing fall books we're eager to read"
"A penetrating and profoundly timely collection of essays. It is music writing at its sharpest, most perceptive, and most urgent... Most remarkable, perhaps, is Abdurraqib’s ability to perceive and define connections between his subjects, himself, and the fractured, complicated culture in which we live."
—Foreword Reviews (starred)
"Abdurraqib’s essay collection is mesmerizing and deeply perceptive... filled with honesty, providing the reader with the sensation of seeing the world through fresh eyes."
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
—Library Journal (starred)
"Abdurraqib writes with uninhibited curiosity and insight about music and its ties to culture and memory, life and death, on levels personal, political, and universal."
"In a year that’s felt like a century, hope is hard to come by. Hanif Abdurraqib doesn’t promise us anything beyond brilliant flashes of light in a dark and complicated world, but he does it with such generosity, such grace that we might not deserve it."
—Jaime Fountaine, Fanzine, READ THE INTERVIEW HERE
"A towering work full of insightful observations about everything from the legacy of Nina Simone to the music of Bruce Springsteen... a powerful work about art, society, and the perspective through which its author regards both."
—Tobias Carroll, Electric Literature, READ THE INTERVIEW HERE
"A joyful requiem—emphasis on joyful. Abdurraqib has written a guide for the living as well as a memorial for those we have lost."
—David Breithaupt, Los Angeles Review of Books, "My Small America: An Interview with Hanif Abdurraqib"
"Moving seamlessly from Fall Out Boy to Nina Simone, from Bruce Springsteen to the death of Mike Brown, Abdurraqib centers this masterful collection of essays not only around music and the way it’s shaped and carried him through life, but the tiny sparks that help us survive."
—Jaime Fountaine, Fanzine, More Than Love & Joy: A Conversation with Hanif Abdurraqib
"Some of the most dynamic writing about music I’ve ever read. The way Abdurraqib ties the artists, concerts, and music culture he is covering into current events can make you care about music you have never even heard."
—Robert Sindelar, Board President, American Booksellers Association (ABA)
"These are essays about music, but also about culture, race, and life in America today."
—Rebecca Hussey, Book Riot, 20 Great Essay Collections from 2017
"Read this, then listen back—you’re sure to hear something new."
—Jinnie Lee and Maura M. Lynch, W Magazine
"Erudite writing from an author struggling to find meaning through music."
"Certain writers can take a pop song or musician as their subject and turn what they write into a stunning evocation of some aspect of society. That’s very much the case with Hanif Abdurraqib, and in this new collection he covers everything from the Columbus punk scene to Chance the Rapper, coming up with stunning observations along the way."
—Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Uses [seemingly random moments] to try and explore some of the most difficult questions about race, violence, and prejudice facing Americans, specifically Americans of color, today."
—Sadie Trombetta, Bustle
Hanif Abdurraqib — a 2021 MacArthur 'Genius' Grant Recipient — 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. He is the author of the poetry collections The Crown Ain't Worth Much, a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and A Fortune For Your Disaster, which won the 2020 Lenore Marshall Prize, and the essay collections They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, named a best book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others; Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest, a New York Times Bestseller, a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and longlisted for the National Book Award; and A Little Devil In America, which was shortlisted for the National Book Award. He is a graduate of Beechcroft High School.
Find more information, read interviews, and watch videos on the Hanif Abdurraqib author page.
Introduction written by Eve L. Ewing
Eve L. Ewing is the award-winning author of several books, including the poetry collections Electric Arches and 1919, the nonfiction work Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side, and a novel for young readers, Maya and the Robot. She is the co-author (with Nate Marshall) of the play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. She has also written several comics for Marvel Comics, most notably the Ironheart series. Dr. Ewing co-wrote a story with Janelle Monáe as a contributor to the collection of Black queer Afrofuturist fiction The Memory Librarian, and she also co-wrote the young adult graphic novel Change the Game with Colin Kaepernick. She was born in Chicago, where she lives and teaches.
Afterword written by Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books for young people, including Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, All American Boys (with Brendan Kiely), Long Way Down, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (with Ibram X. Kendi), Stuntboy, in the Meantime (illustrated by Raúl the Third), and Ain’t Burned All the Bright (with artwork by Jason Griffin). The recipient of a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, an NAACP Image Award, and multiple Coretta Scott King honors, Reynolds is also the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and has appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers, CBS This Morning, and Good Morning America. He is on faculty at Lesley University, for the Writing for Young People MFA Program and lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.
PHOTO CREDITS: Hanif Abdurraqib: Photo by Adam Censi; Eve L. Ewing: Photo by Mercedes Zapata; Jason Reynolds: Photo by Adedayo “Dayo” Kosoko.
To inquire about an interview with Hanif Abdurraqib, please visit the BEOTIS "INTERVIEWS & PRESS INQUIRY" form here: beotis.com/press
FORMAT: Audiobook: They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, read by the author (Nov. 2022)
FORMAT: Five-Year Hardcover Anniversary Edition (gold cover):
The Five-Year Hardcover Anniversary Edition, with a remixed cover design, released on November 15, 2022, and features new content by author Hanif Abdurraqib, an Introduction by Eve L. Ewing, and an original Afterword by Jason Reynolds.
LIST PRICE: $26
PRINT ISBN: 9781953387271
DIGITAL ISBN: 9781953387370
RELEASE DATE: November 15, 2022
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"
FORMAT: Expanded Paperback Edition (updated blue cover):
The expanded paperback edition, released on June 6, 2023, features new content by author Hanif Abdurraqib, an Introduction by Eve L. Ewing, and an Afterword by Jason Reynolds.
LIST PRICE: $18.95
PRINT ISBN: 9781953387448
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2023
SIZE: 5.5" x 8"
FORMAT: Original Paperback Edition (blue cover; sold out):
LIST PRICE: $16.99
PRINT ISBN: 9781937512651
DIGITAL ISBN: 9781937512668
RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2017
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"