Claudia Rankine, author of this year’s University of Kansas Common Book, will visit the KU campus this week to discuss her acclaimed New York Times bestseller “Citizen: An American Lyric.”
“An Evening with Claudia Rankine” is scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive, followed by an additional Q&A; with the author from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Friday in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union, 1301 Jayhawk Blvd. Both events, hosted by the KU Office of First-Year Experience, are free and open to the public.
Howard Graham, associate director for academic programs at the Office of the First-Year Experience, expects Thursday’s talk to draw the bigger crowd. The multimedia presentation, he said, will integrate and expand on images used in “Citizen,” Rankine’s award-winning 2014 book about the harsh realities of everyday racism in contemporary America.
“We’ve spoken to colleagues at other universities that have used this book as their common reads, and she is by all accounts a wonderfully talented speaker,” Graham said of Rankine, whose genre-bending “Citizen” mixes images with poetry and prose.
The Lied Center will open its doors around 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Rankine’s lecture will start around 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A; and book signing (KU Bookstore will have copies of “Citizen” available for purchase) with the author.
Around 600 KU students have attended discussions around the book so far this semester, Graham said, and more than 150 course sections across the university are expected to incorporate “Citizen” into lessons this fall. The KU Office of First-Year Experience selects a new Common Book each school year, with copies given to all first-year students during orientation.
Graham said he expects Thursday’s event to be accessible and worthwhile for even those who haven’t yet read Rankine’s book. “Citizen: An American Lyric” has earned several honors since its 2014 release, including a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry and an NAACP Image Award for outstanding literary work in poetry.
The book’s exploration of social justice issues, Graham said — particularly the discussion “Citizen” has created around the subtle and sometimes unintentionally discriminatory verbal, behavioral and environmental cues known as microaggressions — makes Thursday’s visit a timely one.
“Having somebody who is an important thinker, not only nationally but really globally on these ideas, in our community with multiple chances to hear her and talk and interact with her, I think it’s a big deal,” Graham said.
“The number of wonderful speakers who are coming to the university to talk about race in America, to talk about the current political climate, to talk about issues that matter to us right now, I think we’re doing that super well,” he added. “So, it’s a big deal.”
For a full schedule of KU Common Book programming, visit www.firstyear.ku.edu/cbevents.