Mixing essays, poetry and images, Claudia Rankine’s new book, Just Us: An American Conversation, asks how our notions of whiteness play out in those United States. In the book’s meditative starting poem, she asks what if: “What if what I need from you is new, newly made / a new sentence in response to all my questions. . . . I am here, with out the shrug, / attempting to recognize how what I need / and what I need from you run parallel— / justice and the openings for just us.”
The compelling essay “liminal spaces” comes early inside the book. “The jogging remark in our modern political weather is that we all want to converse with human beings we don’t usually communicate to,” she writes. Rankine is a Black woman, and even though her husband is white, she says, “I observed myself falling into smooth banter with all types of strangers besides white men. They rarely sought me out to shoot the breeze, and I did now not are searching for them out. Maybe it turned into time to engage, even though my fantasies of these encounters appeared outlandish. I wanted to try.” A common flyer, Rankine reveals these men in line for flights or sits subsequent to them on airplanes. In Just Us, she info their exchanges along her personal thoughts.
If Rankine’s essays are wide-ranging (blondness, police violence, Latinx stereotypes) and well researched, they’re additionally conversational and personal. Images run at some point of the text, including image essays, screenshots of tweets from Roxane Gay and Donald Trump and frequent side notes, in which Rankine fact-assessments her very own assumptions. These pictures and asides make bigger on the essays whilst providing a glimpse into Rankine’s system as a writer.
Rankine is nice known as a poet. She’s the author of five poetry collections, which include the book-period poem Citizen (2014), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. She’s also written three plays and lots of essays and reviews, and she used her MacArthur “genius” provide to discovered the Racial Imaginary Institute, which sponsors artists responding to standards of whiteness and Blackness. She is considered one of our primary thinkers, and Just Us is essential studying in 2020 and beyond.