Teaching Claudia Rankine’s Citizen

Claudia Rankine’s book of poetry, Citizen, is a work of poetry, prose, and visual art about racism in America. Capturing the encounters of micro-aggression and intentional instances of racism in daily encounters, Rankine explains,”it was basically a community project. In the same way that the images are created by artists that I admire, many of the stories in the book were given to me by friends”.

One of the most striking elements of Citizen is that it is frighteningly easy to visualize the situations described. It’s a huge testament to her skill as an artist but also a sign of our current environment; experiencing and seeing encounters of racism are not foreign or unimaginable. This could be one of the reasons that teachers all over the world are incorporating both the book and its video counterpart, Situations, in to the classroom.

The poet understands this teachable moment and incorporates visual art to further enrich and explain the complexities of racism. In a video podcast for artidea.org, Rankine discusses visual art’s role in literature and how the employment of mixed media heightened her work as a poet.

For resources on teaching Citizen in the classroom, visit Graywolfpress.org

Kate Clark Little Girl, 2008

Kate Clark Little Girl, 2008