Review of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
adapted by Jason Reynolds from a book by Ibram X. Kendi
Middle School, High School    Little, Brown    300 pp.
3/20    978-0-316-45369-1    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-45370-7    $9.99

Reynolds insists from the first paragraph that “this is not a history book,” and he’s right; what instead he has created, in high rhetorical style, is a taking-to-account of American racism: how it got here, why it sticks around, why it needs to stop. Based on Kendi’s National Book Award–­winning Stamped from the Beginning (not read by this reviewer), this young reader’s edition begins its argument in the European explorations and conquests of the fifteenth century, proceeding through slavery in colonial America through the Black Lives Matter movement of today. It’s not an upward journey, though: the book takes a determinedly radical approach to racism and antiracism. Its heroes are John Brown, Malcolm X, and Angela Davis (very well profiled here) rather than Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., or Barack Obama. It’s a point of view rarely seen in books for young people, but much of the appeal will stem from its fondness for overbold statements, like identifying a fourteenth-century Portuguese writer as “the world’s first racist” only to contradict that claim with a reference to Aristotle within a few pages; and categorical thinking, like saying there were only two kinds of people in colonial America (farmers and missionaries) and, more generally, only three kinds of people in the world (racists, assimilationists, and antiracists). The casual voice is inviting if sometimes glib (comparing owning slaves to owning fancy sneakers, for example), but the joyful épater-ing of la bourgeoisie (e.g., Brown v. Board of Education is “actually a pretty racist idea”) offers lots to think and talk about. With source notes, an index, and a suggested reading list (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry). ROGER SUTTON

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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