2022 National Book Awards
Ibram X. Kendi attends the 73rd National Book Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in New York. Evan Agostini / Associated Press
2022 National Book Awards
Ibram X. Kendi attends the 73rd National Book Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in New York. Evan Agostini / Associated Press

Kendi is a National Book Award-winning author and wrote the New York Times bestselling book “How to be an Antiracist.” He is in Chicago this week for the American Library Association’s national conference.

2022 National Book Awards
Ibram X. Kendi attends the 73rd National Book Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in New York. Evan Agostini / Associated Press
2022 National Book Awards
Ibram X. Kendi attends the 73rd National Book Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in New York. Evan Agostini / Associated Press

Kendi is a National Book Award-winning author and wrote the New York Times bestselling book “How to be an Antiracist.” He is in Chicago this week for the American Library Association’s national conference.

Melba Lara: The largest gathering of librarians and authors in the country is taking place this week in Chicago. The American Library Association's annual conference is focusing on combatting the rise in book ban attempts across the nation. Scholar Ibram X. Kendi will be speaking. He wrote the New York Times bestselling book "How to be an Antiracist." He'll headline tomorrow's Right to Read Rally which will feature talks from anti censorship activists and announce ALA intellectual freedom awards. WBEZ's Adora Namigadde spoke with Kendi about how his anti racism efforts intersect with the Library Association's current goals.

Adora Namigadde: What will you talk about at the Right to Read Rally?

Ibram X. Kendi: As an historian I really want to do to put what's happening, particularly around efforts to prevent people from having the freedom to read or even banning books or even censoring certain authors... I want to put all of this in a larger historical context so that people could understand that segregationists and enslavers were also involved in this type of activity. And so we're fighting a long fight for justice in this country.

Adora Namigadde: And why did you think the Right to Read Rally would be a good format to kind of talk about the historicity of this?

Ibram X. Kendi: It's important for us all to realize that as we gain the courage and the energy each day to fight against book banning, for us to draw from history, for us to be energized by history, for us to realize that a century from now, people are gonna be looking back at what we did and who we fought for and what we fought for, in the way we're looking back a century ago. And so I was hoping, and I'm hoping that it will really energize people and put their efforts into a larger historical context.

Adora Namigadde: We're in a climate as you know, where books that examine race in particular are being challenged in record numbers. Have your books been targeted?

Ibram X. Kendi: So my last check, I've had seven different books that have been banned or challenged.

Adora Namigadde: Wow, how have you responded to those challenges?

Ibram X. Kendi: I think on the one hand, knowing that the reasons why my books are being challenged or banned is because they're actually effective in bringing people together and allowing people to understand themselves and the history of racism. You know, on the other hand, it's been downright discouraging because I write for people to read and I want people to have access to, to my books and really all books.

Adora Namigadde: So in a way it's a sign that you're doing something right. But also if people can't get their hands on the books, I see how that would be discouraging. And then how can people who are interested in protecting access to books in their local communities get involved?

Ibram X. Kendi: Well, I think there's a number of different ways people could get involved. They, of course, could figure out if they desire to become a member of the school board or a member of the board of the library or other entities in which they have the power to resist book banning. They could of course support those organizations in their community that are fighting against book banning. They can organize book ban sort of book groups. They can figure out ways to get books in the hands of people, particularly those books that are, that are being banned.

Melba Lara: That was Ibram X. Kendi speaking with WBEZ's Adora Namigadde. Kendi is a National Book Award-winning author and wrote the New York Times bestselling book “How to be an Antiracist.” He is in Chicago this week for the American Library Association's National Conference. This is WBEZ.


WBEZ transcripts are generated by an automatic speech recognition service. We do our best to edit for misspellings and typos, but mistakes do come through.