Written by Jason Reynolds, a remix of Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
In this informative and impassioned book Jason Reynolds remixes and personalizes Ibram X. Kendi’s research and writing on the several hundred years’ history of racist ideas and policies (Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America) into a “not history” or “present book” for teens. Reynolds writes in a conversational tone and engages these complicated issues with contemporary language to at times humorous, at other times heartbreaking, effect. As an example, he introduces Thomas Jefferson to the narrative as probably “the world’s first White person to say, ‘I have Black friends.'” He then provides details from Jefferson’s writings and actions that illustrate why he is such a complicated and contradictory character in regards to race in America, at the same time showing through the language how these ideas and patterns from Jefferson’s time echo and continue in our society and moment right now.
Reynolds and Kendi’s exploration of racist and anti-racist ideas in American society goes from 1415 to today, particularly focusing on how media (especially literature, movies, music, and television) have been used to both promote racist ideas and fight against racism. Another focus in the narrative is how key figures, including Du Bois, King, and Davis, continued to learn and grow over time, evolving in their philosophies and changing their stances on issues based on experiences and new observations. The implication is that if these leaders learned and changed we can all learn and change as well, and that is the process suggested here for everyone. And so this book is a starting place – readers will likely want to learn, read, and watch more about key people and ideas introduced in the narrative. The “Further Reading” list in the back matter is filled with essential works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama, both classic and contemporary; I’ve now added just about everything on the list that I hadn’t already read to my to-read list.
Stamped doesn’t provide action items or specific policy recommendations for ending racism, but it will definitely help readers see the patterns and history behind current situations so they can engage in conversations more knowingly. It inspires readers to continue to learn more, think more critically, and then speak and do more with their knowledge. It is a perfect entryway into these topics for teens and adults.
Reviewed by Joshua Whiting, Media Specialist, Educational Technology Department
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 8 and Up
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
Written by Jason Reynolds, a Remix of Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: March 10, 2020