I Am Barbarella, a composite collection by Beth Gilstrap, is narrated by characters at the fringes of contemporary society –working-class characters with a raging taste for self-destruction. Many of the stories take place in Charlotte, North Carolina –a place people rarely end up on purpose. These characters aren’t bankers or old money, nor entirely belles or rednecks, but some kind of poetry in between, always stumbling, and trying to survive. These are stories of how folks press on and reinvent themselves in a time when textile manufacturing is dead, and most of their friends and family have long since moved on.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV—everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.