Citizen: An American Lyric

Finalist, National Book Awards 2014 for Poetry

ISBN 9781555976903
Graywolf Press
Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine

Jamaica- born Claudia Rankine is the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College.and the author of four collections of poetry, including Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American LyricPLOTThe End of the Alphabet, and Nothing in Nature is Private. More about this author >

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In Citizen, Claudia Rankine recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly 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.

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Marrying prose, poetry, and the visual image, Citizen investigates the ways in which racism pervades daily American social and cultural life, rendering certain of its citizens politically invisible. Rankine’s formally inventive book challenges our notion that citizenship is only a legal designation that the state determines by expanding that definition to include a larger understanding of civic belonging and identity, built out of cross-racial empathy, communal responsibility, and a deeply shared commitment to equality.