Huron High student reflects on what Claudia Rankin's "Citizen: An American Lyric" means to her for Big Read Ann Arbor


Ciatta Tucker and the Neutral Zone's Big Read

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 ... [and] aims to inspire conversation and discovery.

The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor is sponsoring a series of Big Read events focusing on Claudia Rankin's "Citizen: An American Lyric." Huron High School junior Ciatta Tucker wrote about what the book means to her.

As a child, I loved reading books whether it was chapter books, graphic novels, comics, poetry, etc. I went to the local library so frequently that I became familiar and was on a first-name basis with the staff and other workers there. I was labeled as a gifted reader and at one point checked out more than 20 books at once.

Poetry was also as important to me as the library and reading logs. I started writing poetry when I was around 12-13 but stopped after a while. I typically wrote poetry for my Sunday school teachers and to perform for the congregation at church. When I started back up on poetry, I was drawn in by Neutral Zone Literary arts advisor, Molly Raynor. I went to a week-long poetry/writing workshop and fell in love with it. Ever since then I have been thriving in writing poetry and performing. 

As a black woman, other black female poets are the ones who are heavily inspiring to me. One, in particular, is Claudine Rankine. She is the author of the poetry-anthology book Citizen: An American Lyric. The inspiration behind this book was the everyday microaggressions that black women face.  In the first few chapters in one part of the book, Rankine pulled from experiences that she and her friends have been through. In the second part of the book, there's an analysis of racial incidents that Serena Williams has experienced. In more parts of the books, acts of racism, colorism, and microaggressions are discussed also with scripts written for short films that are directed by her husband, John Lucas. Lastly, there is a variety of paintings, drawings, sculptures.

Having this book be the center for our Big Read program is an honor. To me, these poems mean a lot because it's airing out things from which black women suffer. Prime examples of microaggressions mentioned in the book that I have personally experienced include having my hair touched, being racially profiled, and trouble explaining my socioeconomic status. 

In my 7th period African-American Literature class, I had my teacher print out Rankine's poem "You are in the dark, in the car" and have the entire class annotate and add connections to lines of the poems they related to. After a few minutes of quick writing and annotating, we started having a more deep and intimate discussion about lines and stanzas in the poem. A majority of my 7th-period class are black students who reside in the neighboring city of Ypsilanti. I was surprised when a lot of them opened up about the things they have faced in both Ann Arbor and Ypsi. I was also really impressed by how smooth and coordinated serious discussions like this ran in the classroom and that's what I want to witness in these teen book clubs also. The things I want people to learn and get from this book is to understand and spread more awareness about these acts of injustice. 

Ciatta Tucker is a junior at Huron High School in Ann Arbor and a resident in Ypsilanti Township. She first started poetry when she was in middle school and started excelling during her junior year. She is active in multiple literary art programs and is on the A2/Ypsi LTAB slam team that will competing in Detriot in the spring. Before then, you can see her facilitating the Big Reads Teen Book Club at Neutral Zone.

Monday-Wednesday, Every Week of March: Neutral Zone Book Club (teens only), 5-6:30 pm
Thursday, March 7: Kickoff Event (featuring teen poets), The Neutral Zone, 6-8pm
Wednesday, March 13: Literati Book Club (all ages), 7-8 pm
Thursday, March 14: Identity Collage Art Workshop, downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 6-8pm
Thursday, March 21: Citizenship Dinners, The Neutral Zone and UM-Ann Arbor, 6-8 pm
Thursday, March 28: Culminating Event & Art Show, downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 6-8 pm