Episode 46 - Claudia Rankine
Photo Credit: John Lucas
Talking to Claudia Rankine was just a real treat. But I have to admit I was a little nervous at first.
She teaches at Yale, and she's received numerous honors for her work, including a MacArthur Genius Grant. But, as we chatted by phone due to the pandemic, she put me at ease, and it was like talking to someone from the neighborhood where I grew up.
Claudia's new book, Just Us: An American Conversation, is about whiteness and white supremacy and how it functions in the United States. She asks, "if white people don't see their whiteness, how can they speak to it?" Just Us is the third and final book in her trilogy that began with Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, which explores the unease many of us felt following 9/11, and Citizen: An American Lyric, her book-length poem that explored issues of race in America.
Next month, Claudia is set to take part in the first virtual Miami Book Fair. You can go to miamibookfaironline.com for more information.
I've been a fan of her work since Citizen, which was a New York Times best seller and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award among many other honors. For many years, it was a go-to gift book for me.
Her latest work, which was published last month, defies genre. It includes poetry, essays, letters, vignettes, photography and other artwork. In it, she discusses having difficult conversations about whiteness and white privilege with friends and strangers alike. I really liked the book and have already told my husband he has to read it, so I can talk about it with someone.
Just Us also includes a running list of fact checks and citations on the odd pages. These checks sometimes confirm the author or someone she mentions in the book being right about something, and other times they show where something didn't occur exactly as she remembered.
These meaty citations are incredibly interesting, and I can guarantee you'll learn something from reading them.
Claudia is incredibly passionate about the need to have these difficult conversations about race especially in light of the Trump presidency. No matter where you sit politically, her work will give you something to consider.
- why the events of 2020 have made it easier to talk about white supremacy
- what she gained during quarantine
- why discussing bleach blondes was harder than talking about white privilege
We'll send a free copy of Just Us: An American Conversation to the first listener to reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook to tell us the name of the anthology Claudia recommends for those who are new to poetry.
If you have a won a ReadMore giveaway in the last 90 days, you are ineligible for this giveaway. Or, if you and I served as junior ushers together, you're probably ineligible. ReadMore does not have a friends and family plan! But we'll always have memories of our days at FBC on Lombard Street.
EDITED TO ADD THAT WE HAVE FOUND A WINNER: Evelyn Alfred reached out to us on Twitter Friday, October 9 at 4:47 pm with the correct answer to our trivia question. So we'll be sending her a free copy of Just Us: An American Conversation.