Claudia Rankine's much lauded collection of poetic essays, Citizen, is fierce and regrettably timeless. She examines the myriad ways racism and sexism intersect, compound, and permeate American culture-subtly inflected in our conversation, manifesting violently, or implemented politically. In one essay, Rankine rightly objects to New York City's stop-and-frisk policy; besides violating civil rights, such procedures encourage the abuse and fervent scrutinizing of minorities. "And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always fitting the description," she laments and repeats throughout the essay, as if renumerating the policy's multiple failings. Such instances, Rankine reminds us, are never singular. Citizen is reminiscent of Cornelius Eady's collection, Brutal Imagination, and Toi Derricott's, The Black Notebooks, in its intelligence and candidness. All three works examine the demonization and exclusion of outsiders in contemporary America, how perceiving them as faceless makes it easier to discriminate. Rankine quotes a Hurricane Katrina victim in another essay, "'We never reached out to anyone to tell our story, because there's no ending to our story, he said.'" The struggle, Rankine suggests, is not from without. The struggle is to be heard, to fight erasure.
"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 theclassroom, 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 ourcontemporary, often named 'post-race' society"--From publisher's description.