Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Reviewed by Kasia Bartozynska

Seminary Co-op Bookstore (Chicago)


Claudia Rankine’s Citizen is a book about what lies beneath the everyday: how casual comments, overheard remarks, clips from the news, where people choose to sit (or not sit) make up your world and become a part of you, whether wanted or not. Looking for a new way to write race, one that resists truisms, didacticism and overly simple formulations, Rankine examines what it means to be a part of a collective that is inflected with hostility, envy, fear, and desire. She patiently chronicles what happens to a person emotionally, intellectually, and physically in encounters with other people, and how that is expressed through language, or sighs, moans, muscles tensed in wordless rage, overwhelming exhaustion. How do you speak from a position that has been rendered both silent and invisible as well as painfully hyper-visible and on display? What kind of poetic voice is cultivated as a result, and whom does it address? A hybrid combining word and image, this powerful book seeks to understand how race both shapes and is expressed in encounters between people by looking at the connections between mind, body, feeling, and language.


Citizen is published by Graywolf Press and distributed by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

$20   PB   160 pages with 18 color and b/w plates   ISBN: 978-1-55597-690-3   Pub: October 2014