Greetings, readers! My name is Sareeta Domingo, and I’m an author and fiction editor. It’s my great pleasure to be bringing you a Book of the Week, each week here on Morning Mari.
In the past week, the murder of African-American man George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis has sparked a wave of protests around the globe. The depth of anger and emotion that Mr Floyd’s death has exposed could seem surprising to those who have not been forced to consider the scale of endemic racism that affects Black people’s lives every day. That is why my Book of the Week selection this week is Citizen: An American Lyric by poet Claudia Rankine.
Published in 2014, Rankine’s multi-award winning book combines lyrical poetry with images from paintings, drawings and other media. It documents multiple instances of racist microagressions – instances of indirect, unintentional or subtle discrimination – faced by Rankine and her Black friends. These are juxtaposed with poetic examinations of wider racial discrimination and violence – ranging from the media’s engagement with Serena Williams, to stop and frisk laws, the 2011 London riots following the killing of Mark Duggan, and the murders of Trayvon Martin and James Craig Anderson.
In combining these micro and macro instances, Rankine demonstrates how racist interactions coexist in direct correlation. From a description of a man cutting in line at a grocery store: Oh my god, I didn’t see you//You must be in a hurry, I offer//No, no, no, I really didn’t see you. … to lines about the London riots that seem particularly apt today: How difficult is it for one body to feel the injustice wheeled at another? Are the tensions, the recognitions, the disappointments, and the failures that exploded in the riots too foreign? Rankine’s book is a powerful indictment of our times. And that is why Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine is my Book of the Week this week.