A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi is the middle-grade version of Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, which was written for adults. Told in a casual, conversational, relatable, and sometimes humorous tone, it frames African American history as a history of competing ideas: "Haters" (segregationists) believe Black people are different from and inferior to White people and preach separation of the races. "Cowards" (assimilationists) believe Black people are damaged, whether through external or internal causes, and focus on how they can win the approval of Whites. Antiracists believe there's nothing wrong with Black people, and focus on dismantling systems of racism. Key figures and events in Black history are discussed, including the religious argument that sought to justify slavery, the racial bias in the "war on drugs," and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It charts historical and contemporary events involving violence, including lynching, police brutality, assassinations, rape, and the killing of Emmett Till.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
STAMPED tells the story of competing ideas about race as they have evolved in the United States from the colonial period to the present. The authors present these ideas in relatable, young person-friendly ways and discuss the conflicts between people who write about them, embody them, and act on them. Three kinds of ideas (and people) are identified: "Haters" (segregationists) believe Black people are different from and inferior to White people and preach separation of the races. "Cowards" (assimilationists) believe Black people are damaged, whether through external or internal causes, and focus on how they can win the approval of Whites. Antiracists believe there's nothing wrong with Black people, and focus on dismantling systems of racism.
Is it any good?
Jason Reynolds' extraordinary gifts with language make reading this history with commentary feel almost like listening to a freestyle rap artist. It's an ambitious experiment with a few flaws. Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi set out to make Stamped something other than a history book. Rather than a list of dates or an interpretation of the same major historical events, it mixes historical facts with commentary to trace a history of ideas. That makes it a fun departure from books that aim to teach about events, but the idea that it's "not a history book" doesn't quite ring true. Readers should be aware that the authors present a strong, subjective point of view, not a neutral investigation. At times, it seems stories were cherry-picked to support the thesis instead of a thesis being crafted around the most significant historical events. Still, it's an entertaining and important read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the heroes and role models who are criticized or lauded in Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. What do you think of the authors' statements about W.E.B. Du Bois, Abraham Lincoln, Angela Davis, and others?
Stamped is written in a casual, humorous style. Did that help you to stay interested in the material?
The authors repeat numerous times, "This is not a history book." Do you agree? If Stamped isn't a history book, what kind of book would you call it?
- Authors: Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi
- Genre: History
- Topics: Activism, Book Characters, History
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: March 20, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 2, 2021
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