citizen by claudia rankine

Book Thoughts: CITIZEN by Claudia Rankine

Citizen: An American Lyric
Written by Claudia Rankine
Published by Macmillan on October 7th 2014
ISBN: 9781555973483
Genres: Essays, Poetry, African American
Format: ebook
Pages: 160
Source: public library via Overdrive

* Finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry ** Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry * Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism * Winner of the NAACP Image Award * Winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize * Winner of the PEN Open Book Award *ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR:The New Yorker, Boston Globe, The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, NPR. Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, Slate, Time Out New York, Vulture, Refinery 29, and many more . . .A provocative meditation on race, Claudia Rankine's long-awaited follow up to her groundbreaking book Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric.Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person's ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named "post-race" society.

I borrowed Claudia Rankine’s “American lyric,” Citizen, from the public library as an ebook. I finished it the day it was due to be returned. I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy a print copy of this. I’m pretty sure I need to read it again at least once, and maybe more. I’m not at all sure I should write anything about it here before I do read it again…but that’s not how I book blog.

I can always write more about Citizen when that next reading happens–I hope so, anyway. When that happens, I’d like to be better able to talk about Citizen. At this point, it’s left me with many swirling thoughts, but at rather a loss for words.

I’m on record as not reading poetry, but I know I’ve never read poetry like this. Rankine’s poetry is journalism, op-ed, and political commentary. It’s frank and accessible and genuinely artful. It’s consciousness-raising and gut-punching. It feels specifically timely and sadly timeless.

Citizen is, in short, affecting and important, and after this first reading, I’m left with two things: the need to read it again, and to tell you to read it for the first time.



From CITIZEN, by Claudia Rankine

As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable, hasn’t happened before, and the before isn’t part of the now as the night darkens 
and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.
When you arrive in your driveway and turn off the car, you remain behind the wheel another ten minutes. You fear the night is being locked in and coded on a cellular level and want time to function as a power wash. Sitting there staring at the closed garage door you are reminded that a friend once told you there exists a medical term — John Henryism — for people exposed to stresses stemming from racism. They achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure. Sherman James, the researcher who came up with the term, claimed the physiological costs were high. You hope by sitting in 
silence you are bucking the trend.

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