September 2020 Indie Next List
“Claudia Rankine continues to break ground and pierce our souls with her latest offering, Just Us. Always creating compelling innovative forms, she seamlessly weaves poetry, memoir, and cultural/racial research and criticism through the deeply personal lens of her cancer and biracial marriage, probing the larger questions of how Black and white Americans can both occupy the same spaces in such disparate circumstances. Just Us is brilliant, moving, deeply human, and honest. Rankine shines brighter with each book.”
— Angela Spring, Duende District, Washington, DC
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.
About the Author
Claudia Rankine is the author of Citizen: An American Lyric and four previous books, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. Her work has appeared recently in the Guardian, the New York Times Book Review, the New York Times Magazine, and the Washington Post. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, the winner of the 2014 Jackson Poetry Prize, and a contributing editor of Poets & Writers. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2016. Rankine is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University.
“Rankine has emerged as one of America’s foremost scholars on racial justice. . . . [To] a past we have avoided reckoning, Rankine will be helping America understand itself, one conversation at a time.”—The Associated Press
“[Just Us is] a brilliant and timely examination of whiteness in America. This consciousness-raising, bravura combination of personal essays, poems, photographs, and cultural commentary works on so many levels and is a skyscraper in the literature on racism.”—Christian Science Monitor
“Claudia Rankine has once again written a book that feels both timely and timeless, and an essential part of the conversations all Americans are having (or should be having) right now.”—Refinery29
“There is a persistence in Rankine to agitate the evasiveness, or complacency, that has metastasized in the minds of her acquaintances. . . . Her willingness to force other people out of normalcy with frankness, and her inclination toward untethering herself from her economic status and cultural capital through traumatic dialogues, seems unparalleled. . . . Comfort, when so much in our vantage is in shambles, seems a luxury that should collectively be left on the shelf until civilization has worked hard enough to afford it. Which makes a strong case for Just Us as not only the most comprehensive articulation of the racial imaginary Rankine has ever put on paper, but as her magnum opus.”—4Columns
“[Claudia Rankine] is one of our foremost thinkers, and Just Us is essential reading in 2020 and beyond.”—BookPage
“In this genre-defying work, [Claudia Rankine], as she did so effectively in Citizen, combines poetry, essay, visuals, scholarship, analysis, invective, and argument into a passionate and persuasive case about many of the complex mechanics of race in this country. . . . Rankine writes with disarming intimacy and searing honesty. . . . A work that should move, challenge, and transform every reader who encounters it.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“An incisive, anguished, and very frank call for Americans of all races to cultivate their ‘empathetic imagination’ in order to build a better future.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Rankine presents another arresting blend of essays and images, perfectly attuned to this long-overdue moment of racial reckoning. . . . [Analyzing] the overwhelming power of whiteness in everyday interaction . . . Rankine once again opens a literary window into the Black experience, for those willing to look in.”—Booklist, starred review
“Rankine seeks to find a space beyond white defensiveness and guilt where meaningful discussions can take place. . . . A must-read to add to the conversation on racism, antiracism, and white fragility.”—Library Journal, starred review
“This brilliant and multi-layered work by Claudia Rankine is a call, a bid, an insistent, rightly impatient demand for a public conversation on whiteness. . . . A rare honesty toward a potential affirmation. Anyone who turns away from this bold and vital invitation to get to work would be a damn fool.”—Judith Butler
“In my work, well-meaning white people consistently ask me how to recognize racism. Yet we might ask, ‘How have we managed not to know?’ The information is everywhere, if we care to listen. Indeed, here is illuminating testimony that is both poetic and well beyond the abstract. With clarity and grace, Claudia Rankine delivers a gut punch to white denial. Just Us is stunning work—audacious, revelatory, devastating.”—Robin DiAngelo
“With Just Us, Claudia Rankine offers further proof that she is one of our essential thinkers about race, difference, politics, and the United States of America. Written with humility and humor, criticism and compassion, Just Us asks difficult questions and begins necessary conversations.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen
“Fiercely intimate, rigorous. . . . [Just Us] lets all of us in on the conversations—with others and the self—that are necessary for survival, which, attested by this all-too-human account, is rooted in the vigilance that racially imagined people must maintain for their very being.”—Nuar Alsadir
“In Just Us, Claudia Rankine continues her remarkable and brilliant interrogation of the language, culture, and history that have shaped America, forging through poems, essays, and documents a literary archive that is utterly original and desperately needed.”—Dinaw Mengestu