Jan. 3 – Claudia Rankine – Just Us [Christmas Calendar]

The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2020
Advent / Christmas Calendar
January 3

 

Claudia Rankine Just UsJust Us: An American Conversation
Claudia Rankine

Hardback: Graywolf Press, 2020
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In Just Us, Rankine the poet becomes an anthropologist. If her mode of discomfiting those whom she encounters strikes readers as unexpectedly mild, it might be because the strident urgency of racial politics in the U.S. escalated while her book was on its way toward publication. She chooses her words carefully as she engages, positioning herself in the minefield of her interlocutors’ emotions so that dialogue can happen. While waiting to board an airplane, for example, she initiates a conversation with a fellow passenger, who chalks up his son’s rejection from Yale to his inability to “play the diversity card.” Rankine has to resist pelting the man with questions that might make him wary of being labeled a racist and cause him to shut down. “I wanted to learn something that surprised me about this stranger, something I couldn’t have known beforehand.” Above all, she is curious about how he thinks, and how she can raise the issue of his privilege in a way that prompts more conversation rather than less.

 

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