Citizen: An American Lyric

Citizen: An American Lyric Librarian S Note This Is An Alternate Cover Edition ISBN ISBNA Provocative Meditation On Race, Claudia Rankine S Long Awaited Follow Up To Her Groundbreaking BookDon 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

Arizona State University

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  • Paperback
  • 169 pages
  • Citizen: An American Lyric
  • Claudia Rankine
  • English
  • 10 September 2019

10 thoughts on “Citizen: An American Lyric

  1. says:

    Do you remember that incident early in the primary campaign in 2016 when a young black woman staged a silent protest by reading a book during a Trump rally Well, this is the book, and I think you should read it too It covers some of the same ground as Coates Between the World and Me, but Rankine is older and perhaps wiser And Rankine got there first.Her book is a well constructed bricolage of anecdote, poetry, criticism, and multi media presentation, expertly designed by Rankine s photographer husband John Lucas The book presents us with the experiences of Rankine, a black woman, a poet and an esteemed professor, as she confronts and endures the thoughtless or malicious everyday words and actions of white people in America, many of whom are her friends Examples when they call you by the name of that other black person they know, when they cut in front of you in line, when they use racist language, when they just don t seem to see you at all She also meditates upon these events, generalizes from them, and presents us with incidents which help to illuminate them, from the temper tantrums of Serena Williams to the death of Trayvon Martin and Obama s botched oath during his first inauguration Like Coates, she experiences such incidents as a form of violence that throw her back upon herself, upon the resources of her blackness, her own body her very identity, the nature of the self turned into a painful question As Rankine remarks, near the end of the book, the worse injury is feeling you don t belong so much to you When this book is good, it is very good indeed However, one of its seven sections Part VI, occupying almost one third of the book is inferior to the rest It is composed primarily of multi media pieces written for particular occasions, which although relevant and intermittently affecting lack the poetic and narrative concentration of the rest My advice read the book straight through once, skipping Part VI, then go back and read VI, and read the whole book again.But however you read this book, read it And I am sure that, if you love Coates Between the World and Me as much as I do, you will like this book very much.Here is just one of the many incidents Rankine relates A man knocked over her son in the subway You feel your own body wince He s okay, but the son of a bitch kept walking She says she grabbed the stranger s arm and told him to apologize I told him to look at the boy and apologize Yes, and you want it to stop, you want the child pushed to the ground to be seen, to be helped to his feet, to be brushed off by the person that did not see him, has never seen him, has perhaps never seen anyone who is not a reflection of himself.The beautiful thing is that a group of men began to stand behind me like a fleet of bodyguards, she says, like newly found uncles and brothers.

  2. says:

    This book is necessary and timely It was timely fifty years ago I pray it is not timely fifty years from now Rankine takes on the realities of race in America with elegance but also rage resignation maybe we call it rageignation Outstanding book.

  3. says:

    Update 4 6 16 Tonight I had the privilege to attend a reading and discussion with Claudia Rankine here in Holland It was a real treat Especially powerful was seeing the visual elements of her book brought to life on the screen, with the video made by her husband John Lucas , the music all mingling with her words to create an intensely powerful and emotive display Rankine is a pure joy to hear read and speak, full of wit and humor and a reminder to us all that we all have the responsibility to constantly continue the conversation about our society She says that it isn t people that anger her, because it is important to remember that we all even those who offend us are people, but the failed judicial systems, white privilege, and all the social constructs that build a closed door to individuals based on race are what fuels her poetry I particularly enjoyed her story about how she became a writer She was working for a legal degree when she came across the poetry of Adrienne Rich She says its a moment that can only happen around the age of 21, but when she read Rich she thought this is good, but I can do it better She loved what Rich had to say, but wanted to tweak the text to speak to her conditions, her story, her struggle After abandoning the legal field her first job was for a firm that defended two men for insider trading she went on to a masters in creative writing and now has delivered an extraordinarily powerful book about racial politics and micro aggression Rankine is a national treasure and I feel so lucky to have seen her speak.Lately it seems every time I turn on the news I come across a story that reminds me of this collection The further I get from it, the it grows within me Rankine argues with teeth for a world where we can look bigotry in the face and pulverize it A world where cops don t shoot unarmed citizens, regardless of race or creed A world into which we can be proud to have birthed new lives Citizen An American Lyric is fiercely important to us all, not limiting to race, gender, nationality, etc, et al I hope Rankines message is taken to heart The past is a life sentence, a blunt instrument aimed at tomorrow. It is sad and utterly pathetic that racism still runs rampant in the modern world Even here in America, despite the Civil Rights movement of the 60 s, vulgar displays of racism occur in everyday life These displays of ignorance don t always come in bold, headlines making instances but in fleeting, casual moments where one hardly recognizes they ve revealed their prejudice hand though the hurtful blow is cast all the same Claudia Rankine s Citizen An American Lyric does than just explore the existence of a black American in the modern world, it blasts the whole situation wide open with explosive power and frustration that echoes loudly across the valley of the heart in a choir of all those muted voices long held in silence Though Rankine has a particular focus, the effect should be taken to heart as universal, and that we should not judge based on the color of skin, or gender, or sexuality in any country From casual encounters to the Trayvon Martin murder or the hurricane Katrina news coverage, Rankine creates a wonderful multi media artistic expression that straps the reader into the awkward situations where words get stuck in the throat , and though the purpose outshines the prose, the reader is left gasping for breath in a world much larger than themselves that is in desperate need for an awakening and change Do you feel hurt because it s the all black people look the same moment, or because you are being confused with another after being so close to this other Rankine never falters in her mission to position the reader in the uncomfortable moments of being assessed not for your abilities, personality, qualities or deficiencies, but simply for the color of your skin While there are passages of extreme power that focus on national news style racism, much of her book deals with situations between friends or everyday life with store clerks and other service providers At the end of a brief phone conversation, you tell the manager you are speaking with that you will come by his office to sign the form When you arrive and announce yourself, he blurts out, I didn t know you were black I didn t mean to say that, he then says.Aloud, you say.What He asks.You didn t mean say that aloud.Your transaction goes swiftly after that. Rankine uses her own experience coupled with those of her acquaintances to build a tidal wave of everyday racist encounters that are sure to horrify the reader The discomfort of a friend trying to lightly refer to you as a nappy headed hoe or a colleague dismayed that they are forced to hire a black person when there are many great writers out there , and the feeling of forced guilt when you must keep silent in order to keep the peace despite the flagrant insult placed before you A particularly moving series details a young man pulled over on his way home from a client s because his skin color matches a suspect sought by police And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is always the guy fitting the description. This, and the line you can t drive yourself sane repeat like a mantra during the events of handcuffing and questioning, the repetition effectively used to harness the feeling of utter frustration spiraling to the brink of disaster if one cannot hold them in as the situation would surely create.A metaphor frequently employed throughout Citizen is one akin to Ralph Ellison s Invisible Man, that of being unseen, such as people cutting in line at the grocery store to bumping into and knocking over a person on the subway and continuing on without taking notice Or even worse, to be unseen as a human being and only seen as a color, as Rankine examines in the section on tennis superstar Serena Williams Written as a prose essay, a strong departure from the style in the other segments, Rankine calls to light the difficulties faced by Williams from obviously bad calls to body parody by a fellow player, reminding us of Zora Neale Hurston s quote I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background Rankine places this beside an account of William s at London s All English Club match where a three second celebratory dance was broadcast on news medias as a crip walk.What Serena did was akin to cracking a tasteless, X rated joke inside a church, an incident that she was heavily fined for and suspended Rankine s exploration of the black body against the white dominated background is made most evident by the extraordinary choice of cover art a black hood underlined by black text against a solid white background The image is sure to recall the Trayvon Martin murder, though the art used is actually David Hammon s In the Hood from 1993 The saying about history repeating itself if we fail to learn from it may be echoing in the back of your head about now.While this collection has been commonly shelved as poetry, any distinct classification detracts from the fluid artistic nature of this book Rankine uses a wide range of styles prose vignettes, essay form, and free form poetry, and couples her prose with moving photography Several segments are intended to be read aloud against a series of photographs a collaboration with husband John Lucas , making this collection reach beyond the boundaries of typical literature and give it a very artistic, modern feel There are frequent allusions to youtube videos and other events easily found through a quick Google search Rankine already reminding us of our modern condition through frequent mentions of watching screens and using social media that transfer the power from the author and her words into the reader, as if sending them on a quest of continual learning and understanding You said I has so much power it s insane.The artistic experimentation is impressive and expansive, though it does occasionally buckle under the weight of it s own ambition Rankine delivers many moments of shearing prose, yet I was left wanting to see that powerful wit and control of language often However, this may also be the point and many of the vignettes may be rendered with duller prose than considering her obvious potential they could have been as an expression of mundane, everyday reality This makes the shocking realization of common racist remarks all the powerful as they seem to occur so casually and carelessly Rankin does not need the use of deep metaphor or sly figurative language, she just needs to harness reality and extract the power of the I the voice that shouts across barriers and through the obdurate hand trying to keep it silent Perhaps I read this too soon after Hilton Als extraordinary White Girls, which explores similar themes but paints with a broader palette of themes, examining race, gender, sexuality and how we affect one another all through a masterful prose that made the book feel like poetry than essay But then again, Rankine need not explore a wider field as she has done so well with her focus and has created a book of the utmost importance in today s world Yes, and this is how you are as a citizen Come on Let it go Move on.This is a blunt blow to the heart, one that cannot be read without coming away carrying its weight deep in the soul This is a book that everyone should read, or at least spend time thinking about It is an important look at the world in which we live, and must continue to live, and begs us to make that world a place that accommodates all The hurt people dish out without even realizing it is just as striking and painful to read as the sections on national, and international news stories like the unarmed Mark Dugan gunned down by Scotland Yard While Citizen aims its potent focus at the lives of black Americans, the message can be extended to a universal truth that we should respect all people regardless of race, gender, sexuality, et al We should respect people as people and not as a classification, and this extends beyond any borders We all must coexist together, and should do so with love and goodwill I will certainly explore of her work after reading this, as she clearly possesses a masterful language and prose that deeply moved me despite not being the sort of poetry that I typically enjoy or pursue Rankine poetry harnesses the gut punch of everyday reality to power her words, a reality that is often overlooked because we fear to look at it, to accept it, to give it credence, but there it is just the same.4 5 The world is wrong You can t put the past behind you It s buried in you, it s turned your flesh into its own cupboard Not everything remembered is useful but it all comes from the world to be stored in you Who did what to whom on which day Who said that She said what What did he just do Did she really just say that He said what What did she do Did I hear what I think I heard Did that just come out of my mouth, his mouth, your mouth Do you remember when you sighed

  4. says:

    This was quite an emotional read for me, the instances of racial aggressions that were illustrated in this book being unfortunately all too familiar The thing is, most people who commit these microaggressions don t realize they are making them yet they have an accumulated effect on the psyche I hope this book will help people become empathic to the plight of others The question, How difficult is it for one body to feel the injustice wheeled at another is so apt, especially for those of us living in multicultural environments.Although I ve always been a huge fan of Serena Williams, reading about her experiences with racist refs and tennis players made me respect her even I liked the style this book was written in, I guess you could loosely call it a poem The only poem I ve ever written has been on racial aggressions and the racist media I felt at the time it was a way for me to get my thoughts across clearly and it turned out to be very cathartic And reading this was also cathartic Graphite against sharp white background was a powerful line to me It reminds me of the fact that black people are hyper visible while being, paradoxically, invisible.

  5. says:

    Claudia Rankine is an absolute master of the written word Her gripping accounts of racism, through prose and poetry, moved me deeply I saw the world through her eyes, a profound experience I loved this small piece of prose, feeling most colored when thrown against a sharp white background As a huge Serena Williams fan, I read with rapt attention to the expose on Serena s plunge against that sharp white background I felt a sense of rage that has always been there, burning For Serena has claimed she has had to split herself off from herself and create a different personae The very definition of dissociation disorder I also learned a lot, as I was unfamiliar with some high profile racial events such as the 2006 World Cup French team, and Jordan Russell Davis.The writing, prose, and poetry is absolutely exquisite A book I could read over and over Highly recommend.

  6. says:

    This is a poignant powerful work of art It s than a book The sections study different incidents in American culture and also includes a bit about France black, blanc beurre That part surprised me Rankine does a brilliant job taking an in depth look at life being black She says the things that we have all said and describes situations we have all been in In the light of the horrors that are finally coming out in the US concerning the police and its poor treatment of Black Americans, this book shines not that, through words and pictures Each word is a lyrical tribute to Black Americans and all that isn t shouted out on a daily basis Citizen is definitely a must read for everyone, especially if one day we hope to annihilate racism all together.

  7. says:

    4.5 starsI read about 40 pages of this back in September for Diverseathon, but for some reason, I really couldn t get into it then Maybe it was that I should ve have forced myself to read it in such a quick amount of time, because this story definitely warrants taking your time and digesting what it s trying to say I continually put this off after that, citing that I was bored and didn t want to continue reading if it was going to be something painstaking.However, I brought this book home with me for Easter break, wanting to reduce the ridiculous amount of things on my currently reading pile I began to pick this up from where I left off, recalling that the last essay poem I had read was really long and rough to get through, but I told myself that a fresh start would be my motivation to see this with fresh eyes And i m so happy I did.This book is gorgeous It s half educational, half eye opening I was devastated reading this, and constantly impressed with the quality of the writing, the one liners, and the depth of emotion to this The first time I read this, I must not have been in the right state of mind, because this punched me in the gut the second time I loved almost every single page, and the art and photography interspersed just made it that much tragic My only complaint is that sometimes Rankine s writing gravitates toward being overly wordy Several pieces exclude punctuation, which is a stylistic choice many may enjoy, but I m not a fan and find myself unable to follow easily Additionally, many longer pieces can lose me in the wordy explanations and long sentences, so I found myself preferring her shorter pieces, even though all presented well thought out and poignant ideas This must be required reading It s the reminder for allies to do better and always speak up, and I m so glad I read it.

  8. says:

    Look at the cover A hoodie The iconic image of American fear Urban danger Gang bangers A seventeen year old boy in Miami Gardens, FL The shooting death of an unarmed black manThe shooting death of an unarmed black manThe shooting death of an unarmed black manLet Me Google That For You Trayvon MartinMichael BrownWalter ScottEzell FordThe hoodie on the cover is empty Claudia Rankine fills it with experiences The experiences of Americans whose color has rendered them invisible to the many who are privileged enough to be blind It is fascinating to read and experience this book of poetry and essay and visual image in light of the Rachel Dolezal controversy that exploded over the weekend the president of the Spokane NAACP who identifies as black despite all evidence to the contrary Whatever is in Ms Dolezal s heart and it seems clear that identifying as a black woman is meaningful to her what cannot be denied is that her very choice is a privilege She can walk away or could have, before she became a media sensation from her performance at any time and reclaim her whiteness Sometimes I is supposed to hold what is not there until it is Then what is comes apart the closer you are to it.Rankine s words embody the conundrum that is Rachel Dolezal it is the difference between her I and her what is.This is a collection of small moments and media saturated ones the injustices experienced by Serena Williams on the tennis court or Zinedine Zidane on the soccer pitch are repeated in the intimate moments when stranger or colleague or friend lets slip a slight or blurts an ignorance they may not even recognize as racist, because they just can t see The face that fills the hoodie is invisible Sixty years after Ralph Ellison s Invisible Man and America has yet to accept an identity for that space We allow We create We deny We control We appropriate We define But we don t see We don t hear And yes, the inaudible spreads across state lines.Its call backing away from the face of America.Bloodshot eyes calling on Americathat can t look forward for being called back.America turned loose on America

  9. says:

    This is incisive poetry I read it in a sitting It s a sort of essay about the kinds of psychological burdens that black people have to deal with constantly about the stigmas of race and certain other people just want to ignore and drown out those who speak out about it See the one star reviews for the nasty details I remember first hearing about this book from some sterile academic journal, but I was reminded of it again when a lady in the audience read it during a Trump rally in Iowa I like this image of reading as an act of protest The contemplation of images, history, memory, and their effect on specific bodies works as a shield against political demagogues who promise easy answers to intractable questions.It s comparatively easy to call for action against racist laws and institutions and bring up proof against them It s comparatively easy to call for this and that law to be dismantled and such policeman to be tried with a paper trail of wrongdoing The problem of implicit biases about the humanity or social status of the other, seems to be a problem as innate as the Christian concept of original sin Of course not every person is a Christian, but the idea of some implicit bias seems anathema to the idea that every individual decision is rational and can expunge their faults once they are realized But this is an abstract digression about a personal topic I am not black nor am I exactly white, either , so there is the premise that I can not really speak about the experiences of the Other What can be done, then, is a Rawlsian investigation of different points of view and attempt to act or implement a world which would be equitable to those with different points of view Again, a theoretical concept for an immediate personal experience So what But the act of using specific language itself, or implicitly conveying different ideas or attitudes in the interaction with others, which cannot so easily be avoided is a different possibility I cannot be so gauche as to propose censorship, but to individually calling out attitudes sprung from ignorance, and the introduction of so many points of view early on in life, to make them acceptable and less like an alien force It is a tentative answer, of course, but that will be radical to some So it is, then Such is the challenge to a way of thinking to avoid seeing people as a different object, a thing, a body to be set aside and disposed of J M W Turner s The Slave Ship, 1840 Reproduced in this volume, pg 160 1.

  10. says:

    claudia rankine is oxygen to a world under water.

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