November 11, 2020 8:36 AM EST

When reading Just Us: An American Conversation, it’s hard to tell that the author and poet Claudia Rankine finished writing it before the protests against racial injustice broke out across the world after the killing of George Floyd. Her lacerating condemnation of anti-Black racism across American societyfrom preschools to college campuses to police precinctsmakes it one of the most vital texts on race to arrive this year. The book includes uncomfortable vignettes from dinner parties, racist writings from Thomas Jefferson and data elucidating the wealth gap between Black and white families. Rankine also puts herself at the center of many of these stories, forcing readers and those around her to recognize her humanity, as well as her pinpoint insight and wit.

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