How To Raise An Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

Kirkus The National Book Award–winning author uses his own life to illustrate the need for anti-racist policy and practices in American schools and homes. Kendi, professor of humanities at Boston University and one of our foremost scholars on race in America, begins with his wife’s experience as a Black doctor with a medical degree from Yale whose prenatal concerns were ignored by multiple health care workers—an unfortunately common problem that Black women often face in pregnancy and beyond. The author continues by explaining how his daughter’s preschool years motivated him to think through “childproofing” the “racial environment” of his home. He then transitions to his own childhood experiences transferring among eight different schools in order to escape various types of racism, beginning with his kindergarten in Queens, where his teacher labeled him as a behavioral problem despite the fact that he wasn’t acting any differently than his White peers. In a chapter about his brother, Kendi explains the connections between ableism and racism, and he ends with a chapter summarizing the current debates about anti-racist education in school and presenting a clear, impassioned case for why all children benefit from anti-racist instruction. “The most critical part of raising a child is not what we do with our child,” he writes. “It’s what we do with our society. We must keep our individual children safe in this racist soci-ety, while building an antiracist society that can protect all our children.” Rather than illustrating specific parenting techniques, the author uses personal stories to argue for sweeping changes to health care and education. The author’s vulnerability about his own parenting mistakes and schooling mishaps clarify racist structures with empathy, clarity, and hope for change. While Kendi’s overuse of rhetorical questions and tendency to self-flagellate sometimes feel grating, the book is an excellent introduction to how racism impacts children across the life span. A useful anti-racist memoir about how anti-racism can make the world safer for all children. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Historian Kendi (How to Be an Antiracist) lays out an antiracism plan for caregivers in this knockout combination of memoir and parenting guide. Kendi challenges the notion that not talking about race protects children; colorblindness, he writes, leads to “denial,” not combating the problem. To that end, he suggests, parents should have discussions about race early and often; train critical thinkers by asking such questions as “Why do you think there aren’t more picture books with dark people on the covers?”; and cultivate empathy by making sure not to “dismiss feelings, judge their feelings, or hostile to their feelings.” Teachers, meanwhile, need to be trained with antiracist courses and be given better financial support. Throughout, Kendi ties his research and advice to his own experience, as when he recalls his daughter’s attachment to a white doll at her daycare to advocate for exposing babies and young children to the “human rainbow” through multicultural books and toys. Kendi succeeds marvelously in connecting the personal to the systemic, showing how structural inequalities have personal costs—“Who knows how much potential racism has buried?” This will be an invaluable resource for any parent or teacher who want to set kids on the path to antiracism early. Agent: Ayesha Pande, Ayesha Pande Literary. (June)

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Book list No child is born racist, but in the U.S. racism is ingrained into multitudinous elements of childhood, from growth charts and maternal care to doll preference and academic expectations. Kendi—professor, MacArthur fellow, and National Book Award–winning author of Stamped From The Beginning (2016) and coeditor of Four Hundred Souls (2020)—continues to offer antiracism education here by addressing parents, teachers, family members, and mentors, anyone involved in raising children. By turns conversational and scholarly, relating personal anecdotes that range from heartwarming to anger-inducing, shifting tone between self-deprecating and impassioned, and covering a child's life from pregnancy to adolescence, Kendi's work spans quite a range. Throughout, he is primarily focused on naming the problem of racism as it relates to children and child-rearing, then on encouraging personal reflection and offering avenues for self-improvement. There is no one answer and no magic wand, just continual awareness and hard work. Kendi talks at length about his own parenting journey, noting his own errors, false assumptions, lessons learned, and intentions for the future. His humility in modeling continual self-improvement helps make this a readable and approachable guide. Because of its scope, nearly all readers will come away from Kendi's message more aware and having found a point of resonance in their own lives.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Kendi is an antiracism trailblazer and parents, educators, and everyone else who cares for children will seek his guidance.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal After winning the National Book Award forStamped from the Beginning, among five straight No. 1 New York Times best sellers that also include How To Be an Antiracist, Kendi was repeatedly asked "How do I raise an antiracist child?" The question became crucial when he learned that his partner, Sadiqa, was pregnant. While initially he wanted to offer his child not instruction but protection from racism, he soon realized that antiracism must be taught early and proactively. Here he combines scholarship and personal experience to show how this can be done.

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