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With Just Us, Claudia Rankine offers more than just words. The poet, playwright and academic has brought together images, academic texts, statistics, citations and references. "The form the book takes itself is trying to mimic conversation," she says in her video interview with Penguin.co.uk. "I felt like it was necessary to bring in other voices, whether by images... or the work of other writers."

Like all good conversations, Just Us sends the reader's curiosity off in dozens of directions, and it's impossible to read her book about identity, whiteness and the power it holds in America without wanting to follow these rabbit-holes. But it's also fitting because Just Us started with actual conversations: "I wondered what it would mean to ask random white men how they understood their privilege," she writes in the book's opening essay. "Maybe it was time to engage, even if my fantasies of these encounters seemed outlandish. I wanted to try."

In this video, Rankine explains how she undertook this research, as well as the potential it has to spark a global conversation about privilege and power.

  • Just Us

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    'Audacious, revelatory, devastating' Robin DiAngelo

    At home and in government, contemporary America finds itself riven by a culture war in which aggression and defensiveness alike are on the rise. It is not alone. In such partisan conditions, how can humans best approach one another across our differences?

    Taking the study of whiteness and white supremacy as a guiding light, Claudia Rankine explores a series of real encounters with friends and strangers - each disrupting the false comfort of spaces where our public and private lives intersect, like the airport, the theatre, the dinner party and the voting booth - and urges us to enter into the conversations which could offer the only humane pathways through this moment of division.

    Just Us is an invitation to discover what it takes to stay in the room together, and to breach the silence, guilt and violence that surround whiteness. Brilliantly arranging essays, images and poems along with the voices and rebuttals of others, it counterpoints Rankine's own text with facing-page notes and commentary, and closes with a bravura study of women confronting the political and cultural implications of dyeing their hair blonde.

    Wry, vulnerable and prescient, this is Rankine's most intimate work, less interested in being right than in being true, and being together.

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