They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us: Essays

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 Ohio-based poet and cultural critic Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib weaves personal memory, politics, race, class and gender together in powerful ways in this rich collection of essays. Music serves as our collective memory – an artifact we share with Willis-Abdurraqib – that we can use to connect to our own parallel and complementary experiences, but then he takes us deeper into our layered identities, inequities and power structures.
What begins as a report on being one of the few Black audience members at a recent Bruce Springsteen concert expands into a powerful analysis of the type of optimism, hope and pride in working class identity which continues to be impossible for Black working class people.  Willis-Abdurraqib visits Michael Brown’s grave and reflects on being a Black punk rock fan.  He dares to ask what the popularity of the Wkend says about our capacity for loving relationships, while remembering his own lost love.  he revisits music that he heard in his early twenties and finds messages of misogyny and rape culture that he merely sensed before this era of #metoo. These messages will stay with any reader who seeks to make emotional sense of the political and social upheavals of the past few years, while emerging smarter and intellectually engaged.