CITIZEN by Claudia Rankine

When I saw Citizen by Claudia Rankine on several best-of and award lists for 2014, then found it was published by local treasure Graywolf Press, I knew I wanted to check it out. Her poems and essays on race are necessary, if painful, reading in these fraught times where racism is so ugly and present in American life.

Hey you –

All our fevered history won’t instill insight,
won’t turn a body conscious,
won’t make that look
in the eyes say yes, though there is nothing

to solve

even as each moment is an answer.

Rankine is sometimes intimidatingly intelligent. Her prose is so erudite and her vocabulary so complicated, that it demands slow, careful reading, which is perfectly suited to the difficult, eye and soul-opening race problems she documents. This small book is big and important. While it was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won the National Book Critics Circle Award, it was snubbed for consideration by the Pulitzer, an egregious oversight.

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