Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric” is deeply searing and compassionate, and the only thing I have ever read that conveys to a naïve white person what living as a black person is like. Will it change the way white people think? I do not have hope. James Baldwin lost hope. Now I know why.
“Citizen” will weigh on you as it should. I wish I could main vein it to all white people everywhere. I’m no longer naïve because for sixteen years I moved through the world beside my black husband, and her dense searing truth presses on me like an anvil. There are also whiffs of humor of course. That is the genius of the culture. She’s from Jamaica and an academic and still the experience is the same as my late husband’s.
This is not a time for an e-book. She insisted on a heaviness to the book when you hold it, and Graywolf Press delivered.
I saw Ms. Rankine on CSpan2 at the Los Angeles Book Fair in an excellent interview: http://www.c-span.org/video/?325092-2/claudia-rankine-citizen-american-lyric which occurred on April 19, hours before Freddie Gray died in police custody in Baltimore.
I implore you to watch this video and to hold and read her prose poetry. You see, I lied. I can’t give up hope.