By Thomas Cathey | Special to The OBSERVER
New York Times bestselling authors Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone headline the Oak Park Speaker Series at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Guild Theater. They’ll discuss their new book, “How to be a (Young) Antiracist.”
Underground Books – which opened under direction of former Mayor Kevin Johnson’s St. Hope program and is run by his mother, Mama Rose – will facilitate the event. Kendi is an admirer of Johnson and the people at St. Hope/Underground Books, and looks forward to collaborating with them Saturday.
“They are people who are serious about reading, literature, learning, truth and antiracism, so I’m excited to be in partnership with them and I’m excited to come there with Nic to talk about how to be an antiracist,” Kendi said.
“How to be a (Young) Antiracist” was released Jan. 31 and is a rework of Kendi’s “How to be an Antiracist” from 2019. In this new edition, Kendi teams up with young adult author Nic Stone to tailor his ideas from the original book towards a youth audience.
“There are young people who are being incarcerated, or being brutalized by the police, or are impoverished, or are being called bad names because of their skin color,” Kendi said. “They’re experiencing this and I think it’s important for them to understand what they’re experiencing to protect themselves from it, but more importantly guide them into challenging and eradicating it because many young people today want to do that. They’re asking for guidance in that way.
“I didn’t personally think that I would be the best person to write the [youth] adaptation of “How to be an Antiracist” and I thought it was critically important to partner with Nic Stone, who of course is a bestselling [youth] novelist and has a proven track record of creating engaging stories for young people, including about race.”
Stone, perhaps best known for her novels “Dear Martin” and “Clean Getaway,” relished the opportunity to work with Kendi and holds his previous work in high regard. Stone, however, had to take on the unfamiliar challenge of writing nonfiction.
“I think that there’s something really beautiful about the power of collaboration,” she said. “The project itself was very difficult, largely because it’s not fiction. In fiction, I can make a happy ending. With a book like this, there were things that I had to just look at head-on and I couldn’t get away from. Not only could I not get away from it, I had to be able to explain it in a way that a person who’s 12, 13 or 14 would be able to get their head around it and digest it. So there was a lot of heaviness, just in regards to having to face reality. But I’m so glad I did it! It was such an amazing experience and [Kendi] is such a dream to work with.”