Just Us: An American Conversation

Claudia Rankine

Nonfiction 2020 | 342 pages

four-hearts

I had a small pile of books sitting next to me, for the purpose of deciding what to read next.  I picked up Just Us and before I knew it, I was on page 55.  This is a nonfiction book, but it does not have the statistics and history and analysis and “shoulds” associated with a lot of nonfiction writing.  There is no explicit call to action, though there are calls to introspection throughout.  It is prose, imbued with a mix of poetry, essays, quotes, white space, a Twitter post or two, and photos, presented on high quality slick paper (Just Us weighs in at two pounds.)

Claudia Rankine, a black woman and a professor of poetry at Yale, attempts to engage strangers and other people she meets at the airport, the theater, interviews, and dinner parties, in the question of “what is it to be white?”  If you seek intimate and authentically honest encounters as she explores this and similar questions, you will enjoy this book as much as I did.  It is facile, yet meaningful, reading.  Some of the images and words will stay with you.  If you want an easy entree into the topic that is consuming many thoughtful readers’ reading lists these days ... racial injustice, racial experience, white privilege (or you want to introduce someone else to this topic) this is your book!

(Hmmm.  There is an extraordinarily long section near the end of the book [37 pages] on blondness, and dyeing one’s hair blond.  If you read this book, I am curious to read your reactions to this topic.)

I fully recommend, and will explore her prior books.  This is actually the third book in a trilogy, the first two being Don’t Let Me be Lonely and Citizen, written over 16 years.

April 2021

 

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