Citizen: An American Lyric

Posted in Book Reports, Library of Congress, Undogegorized by chamblee54 on September 9, 2018

Citizen: An American Lyric is a book of prose poetry by Claudia Rankine. It has 169 pages, and was sponsored by The College of St. Benedict. PG accepted a copy of the book, on the condition that he create a work of art based on it. This blog post is the start of this commitment.

PG is up to page 11. So far, it is a series of paragraphs, that do not seem to connect to each other. PG generally favors stories, and biographies, to books of prose poetry sponsored by a university. The first couple of pages are about a student who asks another student to lean over during a test, so the non leaning student can copy answers off her page.

At the bottom of the page was a picture. Two recently built houses are on a road. The road sign in front says “Jim Crow Road.” This is eye catching. There really is a Jim Crow Road, in zipcode 30542, Flowery Branch GA. “Family says ‘Jim Crow Road’ doesn’t represent what you think” A man named Jim Crow lived there when he was alive, and is buried there now. His family, and neighbors, speak highly of the late Mr. Crow.

Page 7 is about a friend, who used to call someone, presumably Ms. Rankine, by the name of her black housekeeper. Pages 10 and 11 are about some incident at a school. Claudia talks about “John Henryism,” or the medical effects of dealing with racism. PG has experienced the fight or flight feelings when angry people, both black and white, go off on him for whatever reason. Is this “John Henryism,” or is that reserved for black people in their unpleasant dealings with white people? This is the first day of reading here. PG will return to this text later.

CAAL is divided into sections. So far, PG has got through the first three. One and three are brief prose poems, mostly about times when the author got her feelings hurt. Almost all of the incidents are what you might call microaggressions. Someone calls her by the name of someone else. A real estate agent says that she is comfortable with the friend of the author. It is not certain how the white reader is supposed to react to this. Since you were not a witness, you don’t know all the facts.

Part two is about Hennessy Youngman and Serena Williams. PG had never heard of Mr. Youngman, aka Jayson Musson, made youtube videos about being a black artist. The plan is to be angry. “White people want to consume your artwork, but they don’t want to understand you, because then you would be just like them, and the white audience don’t want the _____ artist to be like them, you know what I’m saying, it’s pretty simple.” Mr. Youngman says simple at 2:37 in the video. This speech was made in 2010. Mr. Youngman has not posted a video in six years.

The following language came in at 0:52 of the video mentioned in CAAL. “as a _____ artist, you can exploit the shit out of white people. and a lot of the guilt that white people have over shit that you don’t have no control over, burn my toast the other day, if I told some cracker on the street that I burned my toast and if I said it to him in a certain tone assert my anger I know he’ed apologize and most likely buy me some more toast.” PG has been the cracker on the street a few times.

Most of part two is about Serena Williams. PG does not follow tennis, and, until recently, was barely aware of who Ms. Williams was. In part two, the struggles of Ms. Williams are detailed. It is mostly questionable calls by tennis officials, sometimes followed by Serena Williams outbursts. CAAL does not paint a flattering picture of the tennis player.

In the last week, Ms. Williams was featured in the Colin Kaepernick Nike Commercial. Yesterday, Ms. Williams was in the news, after another incident involving an official. As noted earlier, PG does not follow tennis, and has no interest in this latest controversy involving Serena Williams. There is a limited amount of mental energy to use on controversies that involve a boring sport.

This is part one of the agreed upon art statement. PG might not be a good fit for this project. PG aknowledges the struggles of African America. PG also knows that he has a life, with its own privileges and struggles. Hennessy Youngman says that the way for an _____ artist to get ahead is to make white people feel guilty. At least that is what Mr. Youngman said in the first 2:37 of that video. PG did not listen to the rest. PG has seen the white guilt game in many forms. Maybe the answer is to go off on an authority figure. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. Part two and part three of this series are now available at an internet near you.

4 Responses

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  1. […] is the part two in the chamblee54 look at Citizen: An American Lyric. There was little reaction to part one. The rest of the series will be aided and abetted by a pdf edition. PG might even fashion a mashup […]

  2. Whiteness On YouTube | Chamblee54 said, on October 18, 2018 at 11:48 am

    […] fast. Thank you for reading to the end. What better way to end this than with Claudia Rankine, whose work is being discussed on this blog. “One of the things that we don’t say explicitly is that […]

  3. Citizen Part Three | Chamblee54 said, on January 22, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    […] has a list of awards harvested by CAAL. Is this a book to be admired, or a book to be enjoyed? Part one and part two of this series are online. Pictures today are from The Library of […]

  4. Pretty Monsters Part One | Chamblee54 said, on December 10, 2019 at 9:08 am

    […] an artistic response. This post is part one of this response. Quotes are from a .pdf of the text. Citizen: An American Lyric was PG’s introduction to the big read. CAAL, a rambling art book, was not a good fit for PG. […]

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