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Citizen: An American Lyric Paperback – October 7, 2014
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“[Citizen] is an especially vital book for this moment in time. . . . The realization at the end of this book sits heavily upon the heart: 'This is how you are a citizen,' Rankine writes. 'Come on. Let it go. Move on.' As Rankine's brilliant, disabusing work, always aware of its ironies, reminds us, 'moving on' is not synonymous with 'leaving behind.'” ―The New Yorker
“Citizen is audacious in form. But what is perhaps especially striking about the book is that it has achieved something that eludes much modern poetry: urgency.” ―The New York Times
“So groundbreaking is Rankine's work that it's almost impossible to describe; suffice it to say that this is a poem that reads like an essay (or the other way around) - a piece of writing that invents a new form for itself, incorporating pictures, slogans, social commentary and the most piercing and affecting revelations to evoke the intersection of inner and outer life.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Rankine brilliantly pushes poetry's forms to disarm readers and circumvent our carefully constructed defense mechanisms against the hint of possibly being racist ourselves. . . . Citizen throws a Molotov cocktail at the notion that reduction of injustice is the same as freedom.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Moving, stunning, and formally innovative-in short, a masterwork.” ―Salon
“Part protest lyric, part art book, Citizen is a dazzling expression of the painful double consciousness of black life in America.” ―The Washington Post
“The book of the year is Claudia Rankine's Citizen. It would have been the book of any year.... Citizen asks us to change the way we look; we have to believe that that might lead to changing the way we live.” ―The New Yorker’s Page-Turner
“[Citizen] is one of the best books I've ever wanted not to read. . . . Its genius . . . resides in that capacity to make so many different versions of American life proper to itself, to instruct us in the depth and variety of our participation in a narrative of race that we recount and reinstate, even when we speak as though it weren't there.” ―Slate
“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.” ―National Book Award Judges’ Citation
“Citizen is an anatomy of American racism in the new millennium, a slender, musical book that arrives with the force of a thunderclap. . . . This work is careful, loving, restorative witness is itself an act of resistance, a proof of endurance.” ―Bookforum
“Accounts of racially charged interactions, insidious and flagrant, transpiring in private and in the public eye, distill the immediate emotional intensity of individual experience with tremendous precision while allowing ambiguity, ambivalence, contradiction, and exhaustion to remain in all their fraught complexity. . . . Once again Rankine inspires sympathy and outrage, but most of all a will to take a deep look at ourselves and our society.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A prism of personal perspectives illuminates [Rankine's] meditations on race. . . . Powerful.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Claudia Rankine's Citizen comes at you like doom. It's the best note in the wrong song that is America. Its various realities--'mistaken' identity, social racism, the whole fabric of urban and suburban life--are almost too much to bear, but you bear them, because it's the truth. Citizen is Rankine's Spoon River Anthology, an epic as large and frightening and beautiful as the country and various emotional states that produced it.” ―Hilton Als
About the Author
Claudia Rankine is the author of four previous books, including Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. She currently is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches at Pomona College.
Top Customer Reviews
So, I'd heard that this is a brilliant new book about race in America, and only afterwards that it is poetry, which is most definitely not my thing (that whooshing sound you hear, that is the sound of a poem going right over my head. I love words, but I am literal-minded). But then I read a sample, and it is nothing like your typical poetry. These short pieces that you will find in the excerpts on Amazon and at the Poetry Foundation have been called "prose poems," and while I suspect "prose poem" is simply a fancy way of referring to regular old good writing in small fragments, the fact remains that these brief, self-contained pieces are excellently-written, hard-hitting, and easily understood.
And having read Rankine's work, I think "prose poems" are probably the ideal format for writing about microaggressions. ("Microaggressions" are small, often thoughtless actions that are offensive or hurtful because of their cultural context. Examples: a salesperson suspiciously following black shoppers around a store; a white college student telling a black one that she was probably admitted because of affirmative action.) By their nature, these small and unconnected events would be very difficult to write an interesting and cohesive novel about. As distinct fragments that don't have to connect to one another through some larger narrative structure, though, it works, and the reader gets a sense of the psychological effects of dealing with such disheartening situations on a regular basis.Read more ›
We white people have lots to learn about racism in America no matter how progressive our attitudes toward race. I realized this some years ago when I found Toni Morrison’s Beloved so grimly illuminating in depicting the cruelty experienced after the abolition of slavery by our African American fellow citizens left in a malicious shadow land of unknowing, a reflection of white indifference. It made me abruptly realize that I had never effectively grasped the intensities of hurt and pain of even close black friends afflicted or threatened with affliction as a result of societal attitudes of hatred and fear that lie just below the surface, behavior socially conditioned to be ‘politically correct.’ White consciousness was preoccupied with the condemnation of hideous events that capture national attention, but remain largely unaware of the everyday racism that is the price African Americans of talent and privilege pay for ‘success’ when penetrating the supremacy structures of society that remain predominantly white.
I recall some years ago being picked up at the airport in Atlanta by a couple of white
undergraduates assigned to take me to the University of Georgia where I was to give a lecture. On the way we got onto the subject of race, and they complained about tensions on their campus. I naively pointed out that the stars of their football and basketball teams were black, and since white students were fanatic collegiate sports fans at Southern universities, wouldn’t this solve the problem. I assumed that these black athletes who won games for the college would be idolized as local heroes.Read more ›
Hope it wins so it will be widely read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If she had been required to fill All of the space on the page, like majority authors are required to do, you have a simple whinny "woe is me, the poor oppressed black... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Splinters
I love Claudia Rankine. She's such an interesting poet, and I love that she uses different mediums to explore her ideas. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Remy Trillogy
I've long held that poetry is for people who aren't capable of writing prose; this book did nothing to change that opinion. Read morePublished 8 days ago by LizardBrain
A book full of complaining. The book attempts to put you as the reader into the authors perspective. It Doesn't really work and it reads as a list of complaining. Read morePublished 19 days ago by EddieED
Citizen: An American Lyric, was an eye opening experience. Each line reveals a hard truths about race in America. Read morePublished 20 days ago by Taylor Sue Leonhardt
Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, may be thought of as a book of poetry, especially because it was the recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work... Read morePublished 21 days ago by Alexandra
Every word of this tight, powerful volume is essential. Rankine has identified and illuminated the central race issues of our time and brought them alive with poignant, painful... Read morePublished 26 days ago by Adrienne Neff