How to Be a (Young) Antiracist

Kokila. Jan. 2023. 208p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593461600.
Gr 9 Up–This is not a simplification of the bestselling How To Be An Antiracist for the YA audience. Instead, Stone starts with a thriller-like opening, by delivering Kendi’s college acceptance letter into his hands via his father (with whom there is some friction) right before delivering, perhaps, the most racist speech of his life. Drop mic. What? Young adults will be on the edge of their seats, wondering what sort of alternate universe they have wandered into. This is how the authors strip back and flip everything readers know about how they think and the language they use, even carelessly, every day. The next section takes on definitions, and why they matter; it is impossible to discuss anything and align values without definitions, whether it is a bicycle or Christianity. This is sturdy stuff, but it will take committed teenagers to absorb the material which is never less than compelling. “Nic’s Notes,” appearing in Post-It-like graphics to set the record straight on terms such as “race-neutral policies” (no such thing) perform perfectly as wise elder-slash-emcee to remind readers that they will need to keep their skepticism set to “high” when evaluating anything official. Through a second-person narration, Stone writes of Kendi’s life, his own awakening alongside his parents’, the history happening all around them, from Lyndon Johnson’s affirmative action in his parents’ time to Nixon’s resignation, and his classroom eyes on matters of race, inequality, genetics, and always this “why?” inside his head that will not be silent. Back matter includes afterword, end notes, more.
VERDICT Heartbreaking, soaring, fulfilling, a deep-dive, this should be canon in high school classrooms and reprinted in pocket-size format for carrying around.

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