Citizen: An American Lyric

“because white men can’t 

police their imagination

black men are dying”

I reread Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric recently. Published in 2014, this poetic, artistic snapshot of Black life in the US is stunning in its impact and intellectual heft. The book is decidedly not written for white men like me, and can, maybe should make white people uncomfortable. The combination of Rankine’s play with subject positions and the language’s poetic density makes me connect with the (narrative) voices. 

Citizen was The Stacks Podcast book of the month (part of the reason I reread it). I really recommend listening to the episode. Darnell Moore’s excellent critique of what is left invisible (queer, trans Black lives) and the strengths of indeterminacy really expanded my understanding of the book.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week?

I want to establish a weekly series on this blog called “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” lifted from everyone’s favorite segment on the best pop culture podcast. But somehow, despite the okay week I’ve had and the sunshine outside, it seems wrong to publish a column called “something something happy” today. You know, with the Tomahawks in the south and the truck in the north.  But then again, when would it be truly appropriate to post a happy post? 

So here are my two favorite morsels of pop culture: 

* Stown, the This American Life/Serial podcast. It’s amazing, TAL storytelling at its best. But be warned, if you’re struggling with depression: Only listen to it on a good day. It’s not an abstract, whodunnit true crime story, but rather the intimate detail of a shit town and a man struggling with the world and his place in it.  

*Good news: There is a new At the Drive-In album on the horizon and the first few singles are actually good. For your sad/angry/happy/content  weekend listening pleasure, here is a Spotify playlist of the entire At the Drive-In discography. (The end of Invalid Litter Dept. always feels cathartic.)

Happiness is not good enough. Don’t rest on happiness. I mean it’s okay and I hope you are all happy, but we got to do more than that.

Toni Morrison

Just one of many thought-provoking statements by Morrison in a 2010 conversation

with Angela Davis on libraries, literacy, and liberation (and so  much more) The discussion was republished this week as an episode of the New York Public Library podcast. I highly recommend listening to it. 

I think this quote stuck out to me the most because it rejects the centering of personal happiness as the ultimate goal. This rejection opens up the possibility of living a valuable, important, interesting life without having to be happy. Happiness is great, but it’s not the only thing that matters in life. 


It’s really entertaining as a longtime listener of This American Life to see how many people seem to be confused that Serial is more about a story and storytelling than cold hard journalism and conclusion-driven investigation. Additionally, I’m pretty sure Sarah Koenig and the TAL producers are quite surprised by how big the spin-off is.