The World in Black and White
Fall opening with Claudia Rankine, Igoni Barrett and Roxane Gay
Racism, discrimination and repression have deep historical roots, but is far from a historical phenomenon. On the contrary, the act of dividing into categories, groups and teams – them and us – is very much alive and kicking. In this climate, how can we begin a constructive conversation about the consequences of racism? Whose responsibility is racism really, and why is that so difficult to talk about?
When Litteraturhuset devotes the fall opening to these issues, the starting point is some of today’s best writing about racism, power and privilege. With literature as our starting point, we may be able to get a little further in these conversations?
The world star Claudia Rankine’s poetry collection Citizen from 2014 has had a rare resonance in American debate and is already considered a modern classic. American Roxane Gay and Nigerian Igoni Barrett will both visit Norway for the first time. In different ways and with great originality, humour and sharp wit, they all write about exclusion, gender, trauma and what it means to live in black and white bodies and categories.
ABOUT THE GUESTS OF HONOR:
Claudia Rankine is an award winning poet, playwright and academic. She is best known for her collections Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (2004) and Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). Her work deals with race and racism, community and exclusion, and has inspired a number of younger writers, such as French Édouard Louis, Danish Lone Aburas and Norwegian Camara Lundestad Joof. Stylistically, Rankine is experimental, mixing poetry with prose, essays and photos in her work. Her most recent publication, the play The White Card (2019), which was first performed in Boston in 2018, deals with whiteness, blackness, good intentions and power imbalances.
Rankine teaches literature at Yale University, and has also edited several anthologies of contemporary poetry. At the House of Literature, she will meet Swedish poet Athena Farrokhzad for a conversation about her own work and give a lecture about several American contemporary poets.
Igoni Barrett is the author of two collections of stories, From Caves of Rotten Teeth and Love Is Power, or Something Like That, but his commercial break came with the novel Blackass. The novel has been called “a modern Metamorphosis”, and the inspiration from Kafka is obvious. However, in Barrett’s story, the main character does not wake up as an insect, but in a skin that has changed from black to white. The story that follows is a satirical and clever exploration of black and white bodies, of identity, power and status. Barrett has also been praised for his portrayal of Lagos, and his writing is uncompromising: he does not adapt to a Western audience.
During the 2014 Hay Festival, Barrett was named as one of the 39 best young Sub-Saharan writers. At the House of Literature, he will meet cultural editor of Morgenbladet Ane Farsethås in conversation about Blackass.
Roxane Gay is a writer, academic and commentator. She is the author of several works of fiction, among them Difficult Women (2017), but it is as an essayist and commentator that Gay has truly made her mark. collection of essays, Bad Feminist, flew right into The New York Times’ best seller list when it was published in 2014. Her sharp, vulnerable and funny voice has been applauded across genres, and she has not shied away from using her own experiences and life in her writing. In her memoir Hunger (2017), she writes candidly about her own experiences with weight and body image, following the trauma of childhood sexual violence.
As a columnist for The New York Times, Gay has been one of the most distinct voices in the American “Me too” debate. In 2018, she edited the anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. And as a writer for the Marvel comics World of Wakanda, she has created female, black and queer role models. At the House of Literature, Gay will meet writer and commentator Eline Lund Fjæren in conversation, who, like Gay, has explored abuses of power, sexual assault and gender roles in her writing.