Book Review: “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us” by Hanif Adburraqib

“Who is going to be brave enough to ask where home is, and seek out something else if they don’t like the answer?”

-Hanif Abdurraqib, “Under Half-Lit Fluorescents: The Wonder Years and the Great Suburban Narrative.” in “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us.” Columbus, Ohio: Two Dollar Radio, 2017.

Hanif Adburraqib writes beautifully. He’ll put you in a moment: a Bruce Springstein concert in New Jersey a few years ago, a TV monologue called “His Kingdom” by wrestler Ric Flair circa the 1980s, Prince’s half-time show during the SuperBowl, kids playing outside his window on their bikes the day after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and so forth. Each essay is a meditation on that moment, that works it back into the tapestry of American culture, but subtly changed to reflect new facets. I say, “new,” because those reflections are colored by Hanif’s experience as a black man in America. It’s new to me because it is not an experience I share, but he manages to point the imagination of his readers in new directions. After reading his essay, “Carly Rae Jepson Loves You Back,” you’re going to consider giving Carly Rae Jepsen’s E·MO·TION a listen, even if the idea sounds ludicrous to you now. It deserves the 4.58 out of 5 rating it gets on Goodreads. Highly recommended.

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