Citizen by Claudia Rankine

citizenCitizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Graywolf Press, 2014

This book, which is a collection of prose poetry and essays, strikes me as a more lyrical version of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. It is just as powerful and important, and I recommend it highly.

Written largely in the second person–appropriate for this narrative–the book explores racism from a personal perspective. The “you” in the poems goes about her day, regularly encountering the slights and slurs that observers (white observers, I mean) might miss. But here it is clear how painful they can be, even when, as is often the case, they are done without malicious intent, or any intent at all. Which is part of the problem, and this book, like the Coates book, aims to raise awareness. But often there IS malicious intent, and the book also explores the too-frequent examples of lives lost through racism.

Trayvon Martin’s name sounds from the car radio a dozen times each half hour. You pull your love back into the seat because though no one seems to be chasing you, the justice system has other plans.

Yes, and this is how you are a citizen: Come on. Let it go. Move on.

Everyone should read this book. If we did, we might be able to move closer together and really deal with this problem.

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