Monday, July 27, 2020

Review: STAMPED by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

Rating: 4/5 stars

This is a really engaging and accessible history of racism in America that should be required reading for all teens.

Jason Reynolds did an excellent job of adapting Ibram X. Kendi’s near-600 page book, Stamped from the Beginning, into less than 300 pages in Stamped while still packing a full punch.

Because I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, and I especially don’t read any historical nonfiction, I was pretty intimidated to read Stamped from the Beginning, so when I discovered this book was a shorter version of that book, written in a way meant to be engaging to young adults, I was much more excited to pick it up. I felt like I understood the history being taught here—which is a miracle within itself because history was always my weakest and least favorite subject in school—but I also felt like I had a greater understanding of why racism still exists in America today and what led up to that.

Reynolds states at the beginning, “This is not a history book.” Though he does teach you history throughout Stamped, he does it in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a history book. It’s the history not taught in schools, and it’s also taught in a way that’s unlike how history is commonly taught in schools. The whole book is entertaining, humorous, and fun to read while still communicating the harrowing truth of how Blacks were treated over the past 500 years and why racism is still present today. It’s terrible and disgusting that racism is still so prevalent and damaging in our society, and I hope that this book will help people be able to recognize that and work toward change.

Reynolds explains the differences between the three avenues of thinking about race. A segregationist: someone who believes that Black people and white people should live separately; this is racist thinking. An assimilationist: someone who believes Black people should conform to how white people live to be accepted in their society; this is also racist thinking. And an anti-racist: someone who believes that all races are equal and actively works to change racism instead of trying to change Black people. I appreciate how he explained these different types of people because I think a lot of the time we encounter assimilationists and they can easily be mistaken for anti-racists, but it’s important to recognize that trying to get someone to change before you’ll accept them is not the same thing as simply accepting them for who they are.

I highly encourage everyone to read Stamped, or Stamped from the Beginning if that’s more your style, to learn about our country’s history with racism. This book, specifically, is an entertaining and educational young adult primer about Black history, and it’s so important for everyone to know this truth. I also recommend the audiobook because it’s read by author Jason Reynolds and he is so engaging to listen to! Parts of the book even sounded like he was performing slam poetry, which I thought was really neat.

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