Claudia Rankine


Claudia Rankine

On Monday, Sept. 21, Claudia Rankine, author of Washington University’s First Year Reading Selection, Citizen: An American Lyric, discussed her work and read passages from her book at 7 p.m. in Graham Chapel.

Her book of prose poetry is about as timely a study on what it means to be an African American living in a white world can be. Published last year, around the time of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Citizen ruminates on the myriad “micro-racist” moments in life that build up and get stored in the unconscious, creating a compilation of unintentional slights from people who don’t recognize their actions as racist, and leaving the author (and reader) to figure out how to cope with them.

Citizen, this year’s reading selection for the Class of 2019, is not a conventional book of poetry. Rankine, according to the poet Mark Doty, creates “formally inventive poems (that) investigate many kinds of boundaries: the unsettled territory between poetry and prose, between the word and the visual image, between what it’s like to be a subject and the ways we’re defined from outside by skin color, economics, and global corporate culture.”

Listen: Rankine reads excerpts from “Citizen” 

Watch: Rankine addresses racism in the wake of the Charleston tragedy