“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. 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.”
The times we are living in are strange and difficult and confusing for a lot of reasons. The world does not look the way it did at the start of the year, and no one could have predicted that masks and protests would be the new normal. And yet, here we are.
Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen does not speak to the issue of pandemics, but it does talk about the trials faced by Black Americans every day. This idea may turn you away, but I ask that you keep reading until the end. Rankine’s collection of poems and essays are compelling, and so important to read in this day and age when topics of race and privilege can no longer be avoided. Nor should they be.
Citizen highlights both micro-aggressions, like those faced in a supermarket, and events tackled by international media, like with Serena Williams in tennis. It is a glimpse into the lives of Black Americans for those who may not see that side of life, for those who cannot sympathize because it is not their life, but who can empathize with their strife. I walked away from this book haunted by its implications and more understanding of the need to protest and act out in anger.
It is beautifully and eloquently written, and highly accessible. I know that poetry is often something people shy away from, but I promise, you don’t need a college degree in literature to comprehend what Rankine is trying to say. At the very least, what you feel while reading the poetry will be a lesson in itself.
I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially those who are trying to understand perspectives different than their own. It may be uncomfortable at times, and it may make you question yourself and others around you. But that’s good; that is the first step to learning and growing. I did a lot of that while reading.
Give it a try, and check it out at https://more.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2228652164. Have other timely book suggestions? Comment below!
~~Lindsey, Library Aide