An American Lyric

Claudia Rankine’s book-length lyric poem is adorned with an image of a torn black hood—a reference that could be any of the many black men and women who have been abused by the white state, and whose names appear in list form in one poem that fades as you move down the page, like the credits at the end of a movie which you know will go on even as you pick up your coat to walk out of the theater. Much of the book is made up of short journal entries that tell of the everyday racism that a black woman experiences day in and day out. Alongside analyses of public events and personas (including an intense and brilliant section on Serena Williams), the entries build a complicated, unfinished story about citizenship: what it really means, who gets to claim it. The hood sits on a bright white backdrop, and the pages are glossy, as if to remind you of the contrast between black and white.