Books Reviewed / Non-fiction

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, A Book Review

Hello Book Lovers,

Today’s review is one I wrote back in April. I was writing up reviews of books I had read in a copy book to transcribe into the blog, but never got around to posting it up here. I’m finally getting back to blogging and wanted to share this one with you. I hope you enjoy my thoughts below!

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, A Book ReviewCitizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
Published by Graywolf Press on 7 October 2014
Genres: Adult NonFiction
Pages: 169
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

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.

This was a powerful read. Very eye-opening in a way that allowed the words, emotions, experiences to really sink in. Rankine is a master with words. While sometimes I felt I had to retrain my brain, when I slowed down and found a way to find/read the pauses correctly I was able to find the rhythm and the meaning and the emotions. Rankine touches on black life, racism & identity – specifically Black identity. She explores and critiques & pulls the reader in. She uses poetry, art & essays to create a collected narrative that meets the moment not just of now, but of the past as well.

Honestly I think I’ll have to read it again. Sit with it and then dig deeper. I know there are things I am missing. I’m sure others would agree this work is one to reread anyway. It’s definitely a work that I would recommend.

I really connected with a short poem/passage at the end of section V. In section VI, Rankine takes you through different situations and stories that many of us know about from the news, but she brings you in deeper to their stories – both as a way to critique and as a way to pay memorial to. It was a powerful section for me – but alas a lot of her sections were. I think one of the lines in this collection that his me the hardest was this one:

“And where is the safest place when that place
must be someplace other than in the body?” (p. 143)

Like…just sit with that. I have felt that way before, but I cannot imagine feeling that everyday just because of the color of your skin & nothing else—I can’t even imagine. Those words will always stay with me.

She also has another strong line at the end of the same poem/passage:

“The worst injury is feeling you don’t belong so much
to you—“  (p.146)

Just a few pages later and she hits you with that line to end out the poem & man how can you not feel that, not understand her meaning? That whole poem is my favorite out of the collection of work. In the end, just do yourself a favor and read this one. It’s a great collection of work, it covers important topics and Rankine is a genius with words.

Let me know below if you’ve read Citizen and your thoughts on this work!

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