the racial imaginary: writers on race in the life of the mind

pub date: 01/15/2015
paperback isbn: 978-1-934200-79-7
paperback: $19.95

Frank, fearless letters from poets of all colors, genders, classes about the material conditions under which their art is made.

An expansion and deepening of Rankine’s 2011 Open Letter web-project, which responded to a poem published by a popular white male poet that made use of a black female body. In response to Rankine’s own honesty, writers question, vent, relate the effects and affects of racial difference and explore art’s failure, thus far, to adequately imagine.

“In occasioning The Open Letter Project, Claudia Rankine did the literary world, along with the world at large, a great, necessary service, in providing a platform for writers of all kinds to grapple with crucial questions about race and whiteness in the 21st century; in putting together this anthology, she and Beth Loffreda have expanded and concretized the offering. Their graceful, trenchant introduction should become required reading across the land; that it is followed by dozens of acts of genuine reckoning from all quarters makes the collection momentous. That these acts are often as aggravating and turbulent as they are edifying and inspiring should come as no surprise: when it comes to the racial imaginary, our editors remind us, ‘It’s messy, and it’s going to stay messy’ (as if we needed reminding). But as Loffreda says, this mess is a start—one worthy of not only our gratitude, but also our most profound engagement.”