NEA Big Read

Reimagining Citizenship: People | Power | Poetry

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery.

The 2018 Big Read centers on Claudia Rankine's book Citizen: An American Lyric, with related free events offered throughout Greater New Haven. If your organization would like take part, please submit your event below. Past Big Read events at a variety of venues have included book club discussions, panel discussions, lectures, exhibitions, and poetry readings directly related to or inspired by the central book.
Submit Your Event Here >

Citizen: An American Lyric
by Claudia Rankine

Just getting along shouldn’t be an ambition.
Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric is the first work of poetry to become a New York Times bestseller for multiple weeks on the paperback nonfiction list. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry, and was also a finalist for the award in criticism, the first time in the history of those awards that a book was named a finalist in more than one category. Citizen is a genre-bending work of art combining lyric prose with internal monologues, visual art, slogans, photographs, quotes, a screen grab from YouTube, and film scripts. It is a touchstone for talking candidly about racism. And it is a time capsule of contemporary headlines and key figures, with references to, among other things, Hurricane Katrina, the tennis champion Serena Williams, the 2006 World Cup, and the fatal shooting of Florida resident Trayvon Martin.

NEA Big Read: The Word: Citywide Middle School Poetry Jam

Middle school poets from various New Haven Public Schools come together to perform their own poems and raps, some inspired by Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Fri, April 27, 2018, 6:00pm  Details
1 hr 30 min

NEA Big Read: The Word: Citywide High School Poetry Jam

High school poets and recent alums from various New Haven Public Schools come together to perform their own poems and raps, some inspired by Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Sat, April 28, 2018, 6:00pm  Details
1 hr 30 min


Kick off the NEA Big Read New Haven with all our partners and Mayor Toni Harp! Listen to spoken word performances by J-sun and Midnight, make your own hoodie art with Katro Storm and sample Sandra’s Soul Food as we gear up to read Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine during May and June 2018.

Wed, May 2, 2018, 6:00pm  Details
2 hrs

NEA Big Read: Beckerman Jewish Film Series: Sammy Davis Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me

Documentary. Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me explores the life and art of a uniquely gifted entertainer whose trajectory blazed across the major flashpoints of American society from the Depression through the 1980s. Frequently bracketed by the bigotry of white America and the black America, Davis was the most public black figure to embrace Judaism. More Information >

Sun, May 6, 2018, 10:30pm  Details
2 hrs

NEA Big Read: Stay and Play

This is a special Stay and Play for children ages 0-4. It will be focused around ideas of self-esteem and appreciation with a reading of I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont.

Tue, May 8, 2018, 4:00pm  Details

NEA Big Read: “A Font of Her Own” The Feminist Letters: Writing Party

Calling all Nasty Women! Bring your laptop or borrow one of ours for a creative collective gathering to write emails, tweet or fax our representatives about our concerns. In partnership with the Feminist Letters team, Nasty Women CT and the Institute Library Download the Feminist letters font

Wed, May 9, 2018, 6:00pm  Details
2 hrs

NEA Big Read: Domestic Terrorism

A community talk on domestic terrorism in regards to whiteness. Co-hosted by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ).

Thu, May 10, 2018, 2:00pm  Details
2 hrs

NEA Big Read: Create a Mural

Family program, involving creating a mural/murals using words and images from culture (ie, magazines) that invoke the theme of race.

Sat, May 12, 2018, 11:00am  Details
1 hr

NEA Big Read: Book Discussion: Brown Girl Dreaming

Book Discussion - discuss Brown Girl Dreaming for children 4th grade and up.

Tue, May 15, 2018, 4:00pm  Details
1 hr

NEA Big Read: Book Discussion

Rachel Ranis, Professor Emerita at Quinnipiac University will lead a discussion on Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Tue, May 15, 2018, 7:00pm  Details
1 hr 30 min

NEA Big Read: Fun with Fine Art

Join us for this new monthly program where kids can explore the world of fine art! This month with be focused on black out poetry.

Sat, May 19, 2018, 11:00am  Details
1 hr

NEA Big Read: Stay and Play: It's OK to be Different

A regularly scheduled Stay and Play based on the theme of "we're all different colors" using books like Todd Parr's It's OK to be Different.

Tue, May 22, 2018, 10:30am  Details
1 hr

NEA Big Read: Citywide Youth Coalition Dinner & Dialogue: Organzing/ Mobilizing for Racial Justice

How to come together to dismantle the systems of oppression in our communities with CT CORE.

Thu, May 24, 2018, 5:30pm  Details
2 hrs

NEA Big Read: YAAA, LGBTQ, & WWN Book Discussion - Citizen: An American Lyric

Join the Yale African American Affinity Group, LGBTQ Affinity Group, and Working Women's Network for a book discussion on Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Dessert and beverages will be provided.
Tue, May 29, 2018, 12:00pm  Details
1 hr

NEA Big Read: Reading of "Chocolate Me" by Taye Diggs and Rock Painting

A boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His mother helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is. Join us at the library to paint some rocks. Spread some color and joy in our city by decorating colorful rocks and hiding them for people to find. For ages 5 and up.

Wed, May 30, 2018, 4:00pm  Details

NEA Big Read: Urban Experience Book Discussion Series

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

NHFPL Librarian Marian Huggins will lead this discussion on Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Sat, June 2, 2018, 12:00pm  Details
1 hr

Big Read: Film and Discussion: Whose Streets?

An account of the Ferguson uprising as told by the people who lived it. The filmmakers look at how the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown inspired a community to fight back and sparked a global movement. Discussion with Festival Fellows to follow.

Mon, June 4, 2018, 5:30pm  Details

The NEA Big Read: Health Disparities and Race Panel Discussion

Health Disparities & Race is a panel discussion on the issues surrounding health equity based on inspiration from the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine. The discussion is among professionals from New Haven’s health clinics and academia including Cornell Scott Health Center, Fair Haven Health Care, Southern Connecticut State University and Yale University. It will cover this topic from the perspective of New Haven’s issues with health equity and what that means for it’s community residents.

Wed, June 6, 2018, 6:00pm  Details
2 hrs

Exploring Citizenship - Arts as a Gate Opener: A Town Hall

Last June, our high school Festival Fellows hosted a standing-room-only Town Hall meeting on gun violence. Join them this year as they explore the themes of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, opening up a public discussion about the continuing epidemic of racial inequity in America.

Thu, June 7, 2018, 5:30pm  Details
2 hrs

Aliza Shvarts: How does it feel to be a fiction? New Haven Virus

Presented by Nasty Women CT

This public artwork, How does it feel to be a fiction? New Haven Virus by Aliza Shvarts, explores the consequences of living as a “fiction” to power, to history, and to each other.

June 9 - 17, 2018  Details

Art Responding to Citizen—Hoodies with Katro Storm

Join local artist Katro Storm his series of workshops in response to the book, Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Participants are invited to create their own hoodie, in reference to the cover art of the book, as well as the murder of 17-year old high school student Trayvon Martin in 2012. Hoodies will be created at the BIG READ Kick-off at Stetson Library on May 2, from 6-8p; at the Dixwell Freddy Fixer Festival on May 20, from 3-7p and on June 9 for New Haven Day from 12-4p. Each hoodie will be displayed on the New Haven Green as a final installation beginning June 9 through June 17.

Sat, June 9, 2018, 12:00pm  Details
2 hrs

NEA Big Read: Community Conversations with Youth About Race

Community Conversations with youth about race at the Stetson Library.

Wed, June 13, 2018, 5:00pm  Details
2 hrs

The Word

Weekly Word Warriors are passionate poets and rappers from New Haven high schools who have met weekly week to write, workshop, and perform poetry with teaching artists and special guests. They organize Citywide Youth Poetry Jams and satellite events at their sending schools. This performance focuses on poetry they've written influenced by the NEA Big Read book, Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Wed, June 13, 2018, 7:30pm  Details
1 hr 30 min

The Racial Imaginary

When Claudia Rankine was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation in 2016, she used her $625,000 award to build an extraordinary Interdisciplinary Cultural Library to provide a platform for artists and scholars to explore the idea of race. Two curators for The Racial Imaginary Institute—essayist and painter, LeRonn P. Brooks, Ph.D. and renowned poet and lawyer Monica Youn—will lead a discussion of this new model of art curation, collaboration, and its role in lifting voices that are otherwise unheard through galleries and museums.

Sat, June 16, 2018, 1:30pm  Details
1 hr 15 min

NEA Big Read: Storytime and Craft: "Each Kindness"

Storytime and Craft - read Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson followed by a discussion about the book. We will then make a craft.

Tue, June 19, 2018, 4:00pm  Details
1 hr

NEA Big Read: Drop-In Poetry

Get inspired to write a poem of your own! We will offer examples of different styles, including haiku and blackout poetry.

Sat, June 23, 2018, 10:00am  Details