At home and in government, contemporary America finds itself riven by a culture war in which aggression and defensiveness alike are on the rise. It is not alone. In such partisan conditions, how can humans best approach one another across our differences?
Taking the study of whiteness and white supremacy as a guiding light, Claudia Rankine explores a series of real encounters with friends and strangers – each disrupting the false comfort of spaces where our public and private lives intersect, like the airport, the theatre, the dinner party and the voting booth – and urges us to enter into the conversations which could offer the only humane pathways through this moment of division.
Just Us is an invitation to discover what it takes to stay in the room together, and to breach the silence, guilt and violence that surround whiteness. Brilliantly arranging essays, images and poems along with the voices and rebuttals of others, it counterpoints Rankine’s own text with facing-page notes and commentary, and closes with a bravura study of women confronting the political and cultural implications of dyeing their hair blonde.
Wry, vulnerable and prescient, this is Rankine’s most intimate work, less interested in being right than in being true, and being together.
Claudia Rankine (born 1963) is a poet, essayist, playwright and the editor of several anthologies. She is the author of five volumes of poetry, two plays and various essays. Rankine is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the Aerol Arnold Chair of English at the University of Southern California.
Her most recent work, the book-length poem, Citizen: An American Lyric, won the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Award, the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry (the first book in the award's history to be nominated in both poetry and criticism), the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the 2015 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, the 2015 NAACP Image Award in poetry, the 2015 PEN Open Book Award, the 2015 PEN American Center USA Literary Award, the 2015 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Award and the 2015 VIDA Literary Award. Citizen was also a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award and is a finalist for the 2016 T.S. Eliot Prize. Citizen holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category.
Her numerous awards and honors include the 2014 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 2014 Jackson Poetry Prize, as well as a 2014 Lannan Foundation Literary Award. In 2005, Rankine was awarded the Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by the Academy of American Poets. Rankine's work often blends genres and explores the subject matter of race and the imagination.