NEA Big Read Discussion—Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

April 6, 2018 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Join us for an evening devoted to discussion of Claudia Rankine’s award-winning poetry collection Citizen: An American Lyric, a powerful and direct engagement with race and violence in present-day American culture.

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric,  published by Graywolf Press in 2014, is the first work of poetry to become a New York Times bestseller for multiple weeks on the paperback nonfiction list. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry, and was also a finalist for the award in criticism, the first time in the history of those awards that a book was named a finalist in more than one category. “A classic that will be read, referred to and reflected on for generations” (Lit Hub), Citizen is a genre-bending work of art combining lyric prose with internal monologues, visual art, slogans, photographs, quotes, a screen grab from YouTube, and film scripts. It is a touchstone for talking candidly about racism. And it is a time capsule of contemporary headlines and key figures, with references to, among other things, Hurricane Katrina, the tennis champion Serena Williams, the 2006 World Cup, and the fatal shooting of Florida resident Trayvon Martin. Through a series of vignettes, the book recounts everyday moments of racism “of a kind that accumulate until they become a poisonous scourge: being skipped in line at the pharmacy by a white man, because he has failed to notice you in front of him; being told approvingly, as a schoolchild, that your features are like those of a white person; being furiously accosted by a trauma therapist who does not believe that the patient she is expecting could look like you” (The New Yorker). “I started working on Citizen as a way of talking about invisible racism—moments that you experience and that happen really fast,” Rankine told The New Yorker.

Jamaican-born author Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, two plays, and numerous video collaborations. She is the editor of several poetry anthologies, serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2016. Also in 2016, following ten years of teaching at Pomona College in Claremont, California, she was named the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University.

Leave a Reply