Today the National Endowment for the Arts has announced a new focus for its Big Read program and Claudia Rankine's Citizen has been chosen as one of thirteen new titles added to the program (More here).


NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls had this to say about the exhaustive and exciting process of selection in a blog post:


“We knew we weren’t looking for the ‘best’ books. (How and why, as a society, we define what’s ‘best’ is a ‘whole ’nother story,’ as my grandmother used to say.) And we didn’t want to stick with just bestsellers and award-winners, for that would be too limiting. We also knew we wouldn’t please everyone with every selection; the range of choices was as important as the individual books. Finally, we knew to view this whole endeavor as an experiment, that we’d invite feedback and revisit the list of books each year.


Thus began our big book hunt. We asked for suggestions from, among others, hundreds of NEA grantees. The NEA literature staff took out hundreds of books from the library, and browsed hundreds more online. The husband of one of our staff members even checked out 75 books for us when we maxed out our own library cards. I should have taken a photo of how many books I got into the trunk of my little Honda, and how much fun my kids had pushing the books back through the library’s return chute. Eventually, we selected books to send to an outside reading committee for a final vote and viola … we have a new NEA Big Read Library.”


Citizen, a bestselling work of poetry, prose, and visual images that addresses racism in America, is a timely selection. Last weekend Claudia Rankine discussed the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the violence against police in Dallas, on NPR's Weekend Edition. You can read more about Citizen, including how it can be used in high schools and colleges, through the new resource page on our website: CITIZEN in the Classroom, CITIZEN in the World.