Book Review | June 2021

“Before we begin, let’s get something straight. This is not a history book.”

I wish this “not a history book” had been available when I was a young adult. Jason Reynolds is absolutely right, this is nothing like the books I read when I was in school.

What I appreciate is the direct and open dialogue about the fact that race is still a topic that Americans are not comfortable talking about. He tells the readers “Let’s all take a deep breath. Inhale. Hold it. Exhale and breathe out.”

Something I say quite often at work when talking about the topic of race, racism and antiracism is that we all need to get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. Emmanuel Acho really has brought this concept to the limelight with his YouTube series “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” and his book of the same name that was released in November 2020. We need to sit in the discomfort in order to move the needle on racism in America.

In 2021, I am starting to tackle the book Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. I am talking my time with this 583 page book to digest, learn and unpack all it has to offer. Leading up to starting that this year, in 2020 I read Stamped, the young adult adaptation or “remix” of the original.

At first, I purchased it for my middle school aged daughter. My goal was for both of us to read it as a way to open up dialogue about these critical topics. I wanted her to have a more realistic picture of America’s history and why we are where we are today. I also wanted to get her more comfortable talking about racism so when she sees it, she feels empowered, educated, and knowledgeable enough to speak out against it.

I read Stamped prior to her starting and could not put it down. Jason’s writing style is so engaging and flows in such a way that I kept turning the pages. I learned about Segregationists, Assimilationists and Antiracists. I learned about who has the title of “World’s First Racist”. I learned about the history of slavery and the progression into mass incarceration. I learned about the politicians behind continuing structural racism on both sides; Democrats and Republicans.

If you are starting on your antiracism learning journey, this is a great place to start. Jason Reynolds has a unique way of making a difficult topic easier to journey through and absorb. From my perspective, this should be required reading for all middle to high school age students, parents wanting to dialogue with their kids to start raising a generation of antiracists willing to take action, and anyone overwhelmed by the sheer size and density of Stamped From the Beginning as a preview.

Review by: 
Erin Dewsbury-Ribeiro