Citizen: An American Lyric is both criticism and poetry, described by critic Michael Lindgren as having “boundary-bending potency ... an innovative amalgam of genres.” Rankine recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in 21st-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV — everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.
Rehema Barber is the director and chief curator of the Tarble Arts Center at EIU. Previously, Barber oversaw the off-campus venue Figure One for the University of Illinois’ School of Art + Design in Urbana-Champaign. Barber has been a participant in The Japan Foundation’s Curatorial Exchange Program, the Getty Leadership Institute: The Next Generation, the Henry Luce Foundation Jewish Art Institute at NYU, and a Saint Louis Art Museum Romare Bearden Fellow. Barber holds a B.A. from Roosevelt University, an M.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a certification in elementary and secondary art education from the University of Missouri, Saint Louis.