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Citizen: An American Lyric Paperback – 4 December 2014
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|Paperback, 4 December 2014||
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- Paperback : 160 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1555976905
- ISBN-13 : 978-1555976903
- Dimensions : 14.38 x 1.04 x 20.22 cm
- Publisher : Graywolf Press,U.S. (4 December 2014)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 206,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"[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
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First of all there is clearly something going on that's not quite right and that is absolutely acknowledged. But black people don't have a monopoly on prejudice. I can recall as a working class kid being intimidated and scorned by middle class people (visits to dentists, doctors etc - feeling more poor against a middle class background) and when I came to London in the 1980s people pretended not to understand my regional accent or made jokes about Scots being mean. One of my bosses referred to the flesh-pots of Glasgow. Irish people had it worse due to the activities of the IRA. Admittedly we had to talk first. My point is there is many layers of prejudice, religious, class, gender, accent nationality and so on and so many white people do have some idea of what its like to be judged on things other than their abilities.
Secondly there is a tone of the victim coming through on some of BLM activity and books like this. This isn't to say that people and groups aren't victimised but if you put yourself in that role you need a persecutor, and if you need a persecutor you start to widen divisions, this is unhealthy on an individual basis and downright dangerous on a group basis. Also if one acts as a victim one may find that its a self fulfilling prophecy and the persecutor increases their persecution. It is far healthier to acknowledge the injustices we all live with (often perpetrated by the stupid and the ignorant and not necessarily a fully paid up racist) look beyond these people and seek to better yourself as well as you can within the parameters. And there is (in the UK at least) opportunity, not least of which is free education and free health care, not to mention a raft of legislation which people can fall back on in extremis.
As for Serena. Pardon me but she is a black woman who has got to the top of her profession, try and actually get a game of tennis as a working class child in UK and one will struggle (Andy Murray had to go to Barcelona and he was not what I would call working class). Without statistics as to call outs and foot faults its impossible to say if she was the victim of racist behaviour, goodness knows John McEnroe got enough calls against him before hawkeye. Perhaps they just didn't like her as an individual?
And that brings me to my third point. To me there are only two kinds of people in the world (groups if you will?). Those who judge people by their abilities, their nature, their values and their contribution to society whatever their race, religion or whatever - and those who don't.
There is prejudice out there for sure but it is multi-layered and the more people who join the first group in my third point above the more we will erode it. All of that said the prose in the book was very readable and with some lovely phrasing ("they achieve themselves to death" springs to mind as one such phrase) this is applied to black people trying to "dodge the build up of erasure" - but its also transferable to many contexts. Its a good and worthwhile book and I acknowledge its impossible for me to fully empathise with overt and covert prejudice, but not impossible to have some inkling of what its like, as do may people of many colours.
Maybe, instead of forcing children to read Shakespeare and Dickens at school, we should be encouraging them to read books like this and encouraging them to engage in constructive dialogue with each other about the issues raised and the experiences of those on the receiving end of racism and other bigotry. Racist is not something people are born, it’s something people are taught, and its very clearly up to schools and educators to start stepping up and making much more effort with the young minds in their care.
In the UK “Citizenship” and “Relationship” education is not on the curriculum until after 11 years of age: this is far, far too late. How our societies are peopled — our citizens — and how we relate to those other citizens within our societies should be permanently on the curriculum from the very first day of school, not be left in the hands of young people’s peers, bad television, bad websites, and ignorant parents who read nothing but vile, tabloid drivel. A child who has been nurtured badly up to the age of 11 is highly unlikely to respond to positive nuturing by over-worked, underpaid, stressed-out teachers after the age of 11.
Rankine is a great poet, her manipulation of language is amazing and the blend of this with modern art throughout the book, makes the book to be both an amazing read, but beautiful as a physical object too.
I found the poems moving, angry, emotional and always interesting.
This collection only take an hour or two to read but you won't forget about it in a hurry!
One paper called it 'The book of a generation.' This definitely has the power and memorability to be that. I would definitely recommend!
Read it, become aware, resist and act.