Citizen: A Community Conversation

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to present at the California Library Association (CLA) on the #BooktoAction panel about the grant we received at the Ukiah Library last spring. I discussed ways our library used the grant from the CA State Library & the CA Center for the Book to have community conversations around the book Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen: An American Lyric is an innovative work of poetry, prose, and visual images that addresses racism in America. Rankine introduces the concept of micro-aggressions, or small instances of racism in everyday encounters. Some of these are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in public and private life, in sports, online, on TV, everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive, and Rankine’s work puts you into this space. The book has won many awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, the Forward Prize for Best Collection (UK), the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, and the PEN Open Book Award. It has sold over 180,000 copies since its October 2014 publication.

Citizen was a multi-part program around engaging our community in meaningful conversations about race, racism, racial micro-aggressions, white privilege, and structural inequality. This series was the beginning of ongoing programs we will have at the Ukiah Library to promote racial equity and transformative justice.

Embedded below are the slides.

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Melissa Eleftherion is a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & nine chapbooks, including the forthcoming trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa now lives in Mendocino County where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at

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