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Just Us : An American Conversation
by Claudia Rankine




Overview -

FINALIST FOR THE 2021 ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION

Claudia Rankine's Citizen changed the conversation--Just Us urges all of us into it

As everyday white supremacy becomes increasingly vocalized with no clear answers at hand, how best might we approach one another? Claudia Rankine, without telling us what to do, urges us to begin the discussions that might open pathways through this divisive and stuck moment in American history.

Just Us is an invitation to discover what it takes to stay in the room together, even and especially in breaching the silence, guilt, and violence that follow direct addresses of whiteness. Rankine's questions disrupt the false comfort of our culture's liminal and private spaces--the airport, the theater, the dinner party, the voting booth--where neutrality and politeness live on the surface of differing commitments, beliefs, and prejudices as our public and private lives intersect.

This brilliant arrangement of essays, poems, and images includes the voices and rebuttals of others: white men in first class responding to, and with, their white male privilege; a friend's explanation of her infuriating behavior at a play; and women confronting the political currency of dying their hair blond, all running alongside fact-checked notes and commentary that complements Rankine's own text, complicating notions of authority and who gets the last word.

Sometimes wry, often vulnerable, and always prescient, Just Us is Rankine's most intimate work, less interested in being right than in being true, being together.

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More About Just Us by Claudia Rankine

 
 
 

Overview

FINALIST FOR THE 2021 ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION

Claudia Rankine's Citizen changed the conversation--Just Us urges all of us into it

As everyday white supremacy becomes increasingly vocalized with no clear answers at hand, how best might we approach one another? Claudia Rankine, without telling us what to do, urges us to begin the discussions that might open pathways through this divisive and stuck moment in American history.

Just Us is an invitation to discover what it takes to stay in the room together, even and especially in breaching the silence, guilt, and violence that follow direct addresses of whiteness. Rankine's questions disrupt the false comfort of our culture's liminal and private spaces--the airport, the theater, the dinner party, the voting booth--where neutrality and politeness live on the surface of differing commitments, beliefs, and prejudices as our public and private lives intersect.

This brilliant arrangement of essays, poems, and images includes the voices and rebuttals of others: white men in first class responding to, and with, their white male privilege; a friend's explanation of her infuriating behavior at a play; and women confronting the political currency of dying their hair blond, all running alongside fact-checked notes and commentary that complements Rankine's own text, complicating notions of authority and who gets the last word.

Sometimes wry, often vulnerable, and always prescient, Just Us is Rankine's most intimate work, less interested in being right than in being true, being together.


 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781644450215
  • ISBN-10: 1644450216
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publish Date: September 2020
  • Page Count: 352
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.95 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Just Us

Mixing essays, poetry and images, Claudia Rankine’s new book, Just Us: An American Conversation, asks how our notions of whiteness play out in these United States. In the book’s meditative opening poem, she asks what if: “What if what I want from you is new, newly made / a new sentence in response to all my questions. . . . I am here, without the shrug, / attempting to understand how what I want / and what I want from you run parallel— / justice and the openings for just us.”

The compelling essay “liminal spaces” comes early in the book. “The running comment in our current political climate is that we all need to converse with people we don’t normally speak to,” she writes. Rankine is a Black woman, and though her husband is white, she says, “I found myself falling into easy banter with all kinds of strangers except white men. They rarely sought me out to shoot the breeze, and I did not seek them out. Maybe it was time to engage, even if my fantasies of these encounters seemed outlandish. I wanted to try.” A frequent flyer, Rankine finds these men in line for flights or sits next to them on airplanes. In Just Us, she details their exchanges alongside her private thoughts. 

If Rankine’s essays are wide-ranging (blondness, police violence, Latinx stereotypes) and well researched, they’re also conversational and personal. Images run throughout the text, including photo essays, screenshots of tweets from Roxane Gay and Donald Trump and frequent side notes, in which Rankine fact-checks her own assumptions. These images and asides expand on the essays while offering a glimpse into Rankine’s process as a writer.

Rankine is best known as a poet. She’s the author of five poetry collections, including the book-length poem Citizen (2014), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. She’s also written three plays and many essays and reviews, and she used her MacArthur “genius” grant to found the Racial Imaginary Institute, which sponsors artists responding to concepts of whiteness and Blackness. She is one of our foremost thinkers, and Just Us is essential reading in 2020 and beyond.

 

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