Citizen: An American Lyric

by Claudia Rankine

Rescheduled and Mostly Virtual NEA Big Read of ‘Citizen’ Kicks Off Sept. 24

MINERAL POINT, Wis.—Together with the Mineral Point Public Library and Mineral Point School District libraries, Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts invites the public to come together during the rescheduled NEA Big Read of “Citizen: An American Lyric” beginning Sept. 24 and running through November.

Originally scheduled for April, a month of activities had been planned around Claudia Rankine’s award-winning innovative work of poetry, prose, and art that addresses the individual and collective effects of racism. But when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the statewide shutdown this spring, the NEA Big Read was put on hold and a program of free and largely virtual events is being developed for this fall.

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Shake Rag Alley was one of 78 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community reading program in 2019-20.

The NEA Big Read showcases a diverse range of titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire conversation and discovery during dynamic community reading programs designed around a single selection.

“When our NEA Big Read Committee chose ‘Citizen’ from among more than 30 books for its use of poetry and art to explore the impact words have on concepts of identity and inclusion, we could not have anticipated the nationwide protests against systemic racism touched off this summer by George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis,” said Shake Rag Alley Executive Director Sara Lomasz Flesch. “Claudia Rankine’s book remains as relevant as when it was first published in 2014 and turned a spotlight on the microaggressions that compound the trauma of racism.”

Beginning Sept. 24, the NEA Big Read of “Citizen” will feature a virtual kickoff event via Zoom that will detail the planned events and ways to access and engage with the book and its themes including:

  • a free virtual craft talk Sept. 26 on writing about race and free virtual Sept. 27 lecture about James Baldwin in Paris, both of which are components of the fourth annual Shake Rag Alley Writing Retreat running Sept. 25-27;
  • book discussions, including a seven-week virtual Shake Rag Alley Chapter Book Club beginning Oct. 1 and the Oct. 10 in-person Driftless Poets Workshop;
  • the Oct. 21 in-person Women’s Art Party focusing on a collage project reflective of artist Wangechi Mutu, whose work is featured in “Citizen;”
  • youth take-and-make art kits being developed in collaboration with the Mineral Point Elementary School Library; and
  • the 1 keynote panel, “Citizen Author and the American Story,” which is in a collaboration with Hypertext Magazine & Studio, a Chicago-based social justice nonprofit organization.

In preparation for the NEA Big Read, free copies of “Citizen” are available to program participants. Copies are available now at the Mineral Point Public Library and at Shake Rag Alley. Additional resources are available on the NEA Big Read page on the Shake Rag Alley website, including reading guides, video lectures and audio recordings of the Virtual Community Conversation series on systemic racism that Shake Rag Alley hosted in June-August. While not an official part of the NEA Big Read, Shake Rag Alley is pleased to support the Mining & Rollo Jamison Museums’ three-part lecture series on slavery in Platteville beginning Sept. 17. For more information and to register, see mining.jamison.museum.

Materials Produced in Conjunction with RACE – the power of Illusion

Claudia Rankine Reading from Citizen | The Loft Literary Center | Minneapolis. [14:42]

The Making of Citizen | Woodberry Poetry Room | Harvard University

Claudia Rankine Citizen | 92nd Street Y | New York City

How Art Teaches a Poet to See | International Festival of Arts & Ideas, 2015

Claudia Rankine: On Whiteness – ArtsEmerson in Boston, on March 24, 2017

The White Card – A Play by Claudia Rankine

 

Would you pass a US Citizenship test? Play Immigration Nation – test your knowledge of pathways to citizenship [Gameplay available in English & Spanish] The Long Ancient Road to Modern Citizenship – Ideas & Laws of Citizenship Centuries of Citizenship – A Constitutional Timeline Immigration Timeline – Library of Congress Creating Citizens – Smithsonian National Museum of American History History of Legal & Illegal Immigration to the United States – ProCon.org History of Migration, Citizenship, and Belonging – Reimagine Belonging National Immigration Law Center History of Voting – Scholastic (note: Wisconsin’s 1848 “most liberal voting laws” did not include Black male persons.)

Now Virtual!

Register now to join virtual or in-person opportunities planned from September-November as part of our NEA Big Read of Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine.

Learn how this program came about and get an overview of the many ways to connect with the community of local readers currently reading Citizen: An American Lyric.

  • Read the book.
  • Use the resources on this page and suggest others.
  • Participate in any of the book discussions listed below.
  • Engage with ideas raised in the text at guest speaker talks including:
  • Attend the virtual Keynote Panel described below.
  • Listen to the audio of Virtual Community Conversations listed below
  • Attend the Women’s Art Party in October at Shake Rag Alley to create art reflective of work featured in the book.
  • Engage youth in ideas raised in the text through projects listed below.
  • Learn more about Claudia Rankine and her work.

Shake Rag Alley Chapter Book Club
Oct. 1 – Nov. 12 | Thursdays, 6-8pm | Free Virtual Event

Beginning October 1, 2020 we will meet weekly via Zoom to discuss Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine, chapter by chapter.

Please REGISTER HERE to receive the Zoom link.

 

Mineral Point Public Library Book Discussion
Oct. 9 | 2pm | Free In-Person Event

Join the Mineral Point Public Library’s book discussion of Citizen outside in Library Park (please bring a lawn chair to assist with social distancing) or in the City Hall Community Room in the event of inclement weather.

For more information, contact Diane Palzkill, Director, Mineral Point Public Library, at (608) 987-2447.

 

Driftless Poets Book Discussion
Oct. 10 | 2-4pm | Free In-Person Event

The Driftless Poets invite you to join them during their in-person workshop time outside on the Green at Shake Rag Alley to discuss and share poetry inspired by Citizen: An American Lyric. In the event of inclement weather, the discussion will move indoors to the spacious Lind Pavilion.

Please REGISTER HERE to help us plan accordingly.

 

Platteville Public Library Book Discussion
Nov. 2 | 6-7pm | Free Virtual Event

Join us for a special one-time Zoom discussion of the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine. Free copies of the book are available at the library and can be picked up during our open hours (T-F 12-4 and Sat 9-12) or during curbside pickup.
Register for the book discussion at plattevillepubliclibrary.org/signup
A Zoom link will be emailed to registrants the day of the event.
 
 

Rountree Gallery Book Discussion
Nov. 13 | Friday, 5:30-7pm | Free In-person or Virtual Event

Rountree Gallery invites you to join them in-person OR via Zoom to discuss Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine.

Please REGISTER HERE to receive the Zoom link. Or call (608) 676-0609 for more information on the in-person event.

Writing About Race – Eric May

Saturday, Sept. 26 | 4:30-5:30 pm

Eric May, Chicago Public Library 21st Century Author, whose book Bedrock Faith was named a Notable African-American Title by Publishers Weekly, shortlisted for the 2014 Great Lakes Great Reads Prize and declared a top read by: Roxane Gay; Booklist; O, The Oprah Magazine; Chicago Reader; and Chicago Tribune/Printers Row, will give a talk on writing about race.

James Baldwin in Paris – Philip Hartigan

Sunday, Sept. 27 | 5:30 pm

Philip Hartigan, Columbia College Chicago adjunct professor for its Creative Writing in Paris course, will give a multi-media talk about James Baldwin in Paris on Sunday evening.

FREE

Please REGISTER HERE to receive a link to the recording of this presentation.

Virtual Keynote Panel – Citizen Author & the American Story

Sunday, Nov. 1 | 3 pm

On the eve of the most important act a citizen can undertake, join Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in collaboration with Hypertext Magazine & Studio for “Citizen Author and the American Story,” the free virtual keynote panel for Shake Rag Alley’s NEA Big Read of Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric.”

Faisal Mohyuddin, author of “The Displaced Children of Displaced Children” and “Riddle of Longing,” teaches at Highland Park High School in suburban Chicago, as well as Northwestern University, and serves as a master practitioner for the global not-for-profit Narrative 4. Faisal Mohyuddin will moderate a discussion on the book and its themes with:

Desiree Cooper: A 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow, Desiree Cooper is a former attorney, Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and Detroit community activist. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Callaloo, Detroit Noir, Best African American Fiction 2010 and Tidal Basin Review, among other online and print publications. Cooper was a founding board member of Cave Canem, a national residency for emerging black poets, and she is a Kimbilio fellow, a national residency for African-American fiction writers.

Amina Gautier, Ph.D., is the author of three award-winning short story collections and, for her body of work, the first African-American woman to receive the Pen/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story in 2018.

Sahar Mustafah is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. Her debut novel “The Beauty of Your Face” is currently a finalist for the Chicago Review Books for fiction and the Chicago Writers Association’s Book of the Year Award. It was also long-listed for the Center of Fiction First Novel Prize.

Chris L. Terry is author of the novel “Black Card,” about a mixed-race punk bassist with a black imaginary friend. NPR called “Black Card” “hilariously searing” and listed it as one of the best books of 2019. Terry’s debut novel “Zero Fade” was on Best of 2013 lists by Slate and Kirkus Review.

FREE

Please REGISTER HERE to receive the Zoom link.

In preparation for our NEA Big Read of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, Shake Rag Alley hosted a series of virtual community conversations relevant to ideas explored within the book. These 1.5 hour Zoom meetings gave us a chance to explore issues Claudia Rankine addresses before taking a deep dive into the text this fall. Listen to audio recordings of these Zoom meetings, with accompanying videos, links, and data charts.

Race & Policing: Professor Michael Thornton

Systemic Racism & Education: Jessica Fleischmann, Ed. D

Systemic Racism & Healthcare: Dr. Sarah Fox

Local Black History: Jacki Thomas

OCTOBER 21
6:30-8:30 PM
Shake Rag Alley Lind Pavilion
411 Commerce St., Mineral Point, WI

Using women’s magazines from the 1930s through the 1970s, we will generate work reflective of collagist Wangechi Mutu, featured in Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Space is limited, PLEASE REGISTER HERE.

September 30: Mineral Point Public Library recorded a virtual storytime of Sulwe, by Lupita Nyong’o with a companion grab-and-go craft kit to accompany the story.

Call the Mineral Point Public Library at (608) 987-2447 to learn how to pick up an art kit. Watch the story & craft demonstration here.

 

Youth take-and-make art kits are being developed in collaboration with the Mineral Point Elementary School Library’s featured selection, I Am Every Good Thing. Watch this page for a gallery of youth artwork produced during this project.

Claudia Rankine has authored five poetry collections including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For her book Citizen, Rankine won both the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN Literary Award, the NAACP Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. (Citizen was the first book ever to be named a finalist in both the poetry and criticism categories); and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. She lives in California and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.

In 2016, Claudia Rankine was named a MacArthur Fellow. Using the funding associated with this prize she launched The Racial Imaginary Institute an interdisciplinary cultural laboratory exploring the invented concept of race “that nevertheless operates with extraordinary force in our daily lives, limiting our movements and imaginations.”

discussion resources specific to wisconsin

Racial Dot Map

  • Does the representation of racial groups on this map match your lived experience?
  • Where would you need to go to find the nearest concentration of persons from another race?
  • Is the pattern of segregation in Wisconsin replicated nationally?
  • How did this concentration by race occur? Was it always this way?

Racial Integration Ranking

  • Where does Wisconsin rank?
  • Is this what you expected based on your lived experience?
  • How does Wisconsin compare to other US places you may have lived?
  • Do these findings suggest a Wisconsin imaginary?
  • What impact does this have on our communities and who are the citizens of those communities?

Black Suffrage in Early Wisconsin

African American History in Wisconsin

How to Be an Anti-Racist

Reading Related to Chapter VI

Cindy, who participated in the Shake Rag Alley Chapter Book Club, shared this statement, made by U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves at the sentencing of those convicted for the murder of James Craig Anderson in 2011. [Full Text Available Here]

Black Citizenship in the United States

Birth of a White Nation

The History of White People

The Invisible Among Us

Wisconsin, the Dairy State, depends upon immigrant labor. In our corner of the state, the Multicultural Outreach Program (MCOP) offers services to our newest neighbors, including: translation services; English language tutoring, forums on community and immigration issues; after-school help for Spanish-speaking students; and a mobile health clinic. If reading Citizen: An American Lyric has inspired you to work toward change, consider becoming a MCOP tutor or volunteer. [Learn How Here]

NEA Big Read Launch — September 24, 2020

Thank you to these partners for supporting the Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts NEA Big Read grant proposal and working to bring this opportunity to our beloved community.