Jason Reynolds wants to start an honest conversation about racism with young people — and he’s doing just that in a new book with Ibram X. Kendi, the publisher told TIME exclusively. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a young adult version of Kendi’s award-winning book, will be published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in March 2020.
For the new book, the celebrated YA author is reimagining Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, the 2016 National Book Award winner that provided a comprehensive look at America’s relationship with racism. The new version will similarly trace the origins of anti-black and racist ideas as well as propose tools for identifying and combating them. But Reynolds, author of young adult and middle grade bestsellers including As Brave As You, Long Way Down and All American Boys, is making sure that the subject matter is approachable for a younger audience. “I rewrote the book top to bottom,” Reynolds tells TIME. “I settled into it and I tried to figure out, if I’m 16, what makes me want to read this book? And the answer is always going to be subversion. So the book starts: ‘This is not a history book.'”
Kendi, whose new book How to Be an Antiracist debuted earlier this month, is excited that Reynolds was able to translate the bestseller for younger people to read. “The idea is that high school students should be able to learn in a very detailed and clear way the history of racist ideas so that they would not have to spend their whole lives struggling with these ideas in the way so many of us adults have,” Kendi tells TIME, adding that he wishes books like the young adult Stamped had been around when he was in high school.
As a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, Newbery Honor recipient and NAACP Image Award Winner, Reynolds has a proven ability to connect with young people. A big part of that connection stems from his determination to be honest with them about complex topics, deeming the common impulse to “water down” tough subjects as disrespectful to young readers. “I’m really honest in the book,” he says. “Instead of it being young people being talked at, because this is nonfiction, they are brought into it.”
Expect moments throughout the young reader edition of Stamped when readers are instructed to pause and digest. In one section about white privilege, Reynolds prompts readers to take a breath, hold it in, then breathe in and breathe out. Where he encourages the exhale, the word privilege is spaced out across the page. “It’s almost as if you are breathing it out,” he says. “Like, it’s okay, it’s alright for us to sit with this concept.”
Ultimately, Reynolds hopes that by reading this edition of Stamped, young people will understand their role in contributing to an ongoing dialogue about racism. “I want them to know that they have a place, that they have a seat at the table and that they have an obligation and responsibility,” he says. “And that my love for them — and for the adults around them — is hopefully shown by giving them this book to help them better navigate these complex ideas.”
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