2014 National Book Award Finalist, Poetry


Citizen: An American LyricClaudia Rankine

Citizen: An American Lyric

Graywolf Press

ISBN: 978-1555976903


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.


In Citizen, Claudia Rankine recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, 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 our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.


Jamaica- born Claudia Rankine is the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College.and the author of four collections of poetry, including Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, PLOT, The End of the Alphabet, and Nothing in Nature is Private, which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize. She is a winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize and a recipient of fellowships from the Academy of American Poetry, the National Endowments for the Arts, and the Lannan Foundation. In 2006, she served as a Judge for the National Book Award for Poetry.

A chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Rankine has edited numerous anthologies including American Women Poets in the Twenty-First Century: Where Lyric Meets Language and American Poets in the Twenty-First Century: The New Poetics. Her plays include Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue and she has also produced a number of videos in collaboration with John Lucas, including "Situation One."


- claudiarankine.com


Excerpt from Citizen: An American Lyric. Copyright © 2014 by Claudia Rankine. Used by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved. www.graywolfpress.org

An Excerpt from Citizen: An American Lyric