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


Kyri Antholis, Editor in Chief

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is by far the most haunting form of literature I’ve yet to read. The book is composed of essays by Hanif Abduraquid, a Black Muslim man who grew up in Illinios, and was written in 2016. The essays cover every form of literature: poetry, novel, fiction, journalism. While the book gives you the assumption it is simply cultural reviews, everything from Fleetwood Mac to Michael Jordan, Abduraquid is telling a story: of story of his own love and grief and existence, a story of America at a time of great tension and divide, a story of felt human emotions and experiences. The themes of the book surprise you when you come to realize these essays are not individual but create a much larger picture about how humans navigate the world. The essays get more complex as you read on, and while they work as stand alone pieces of writing, they do build on the story that Abduraquid is masterfully threading. 

I believe this book should be required reading for any class on journalism, music history, Black history, or social justice. Abduraquid’s connection of popular culture to themes of political tension and human inquisition is articulate and clear. The way he writes is poetry, but poetry about any number of subjects. Abduraquid should set the basis for how cultural critics should aim to write. Hanif writes the way I aspire to write. While some say writing about music is fruitless, since heard sounds cannot nearly be expressed as fully in words, the way Abduraquid connects with his reader has the same power as a song that resonates deep in someone’s soul. Abduraquid writes about communication: he communicates emotions that are rarely communicated through the written word and he describes the power of things that are not words.