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Let's Talk about Race

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  748 ratings  ·  175 reviews
I am a story. So are you. So is everyone.

Julius Lester says, "I write because our lives are stories. If enough of those stories are told, then perhaps we will begin to see that our lives are the same story. The differences are merely in the details." Now Mr. Lester shares his own story as he explores what makes each of us special. Karen Barbour's dramatic, vibrant painting
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published January 4th 2005 by Amistad Press (first published January 1st 2005)
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  748 ratings  ·  175 reviews

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Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Former University of Massachusetts professor Julius Lester presents a beautifully illustrated book about our lives and the stories we tell.


Just as I am a story and you are a story and countries tell stories about themselves, race is a story, too. Whether you're black like me or Asian, Hispanic or white, each race has a story about itself. And that story is almost always the same: "MY RACE IS BETTER THAN YOUR RACE." Some stories are true. Some are not. Those who say "MY RACE IS BETTER THAN YOUR
Mariah Roze
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been wanting to read this book with my students forever and I am so glad I finally was able to do that. My students loved this book. It opened up a lot of discussions for us and it also was simple so they could follow along. This book taught about how we all look the same under our skin, so we should not be judging another person till we actually get to know them.
May 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
I appreciate Lester's emphasis on debunking superiority. I do not support his emphasis on ignoring race and ethnicity. Lester invites readers to shed themselves of their skin: "I'll take off my skin. Will you take off yours?" This invitation allows us to journey down the path of colorblindness without first saying, "I love your skin." "I respect your language." "I want to learn more about your cultural heritage and history."

How many of us move about the world without our skin? How many laws and
Julius Lester tackles a topic not usually seen in children's books. The effort is admirable, and I WANT to enthusiastically recommend it, but it just doesn't settle well with me.

He makes the point that race doesn't completely define someone, and that we are all made up of many different stories, many different parts that all make the whole of 'who someone is'. This part is done well. Although I realized that he doesn't allow any leeway for someone who has parts of their story missing (don't know
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
OMG I love this book and the message! The kids get it and get to interact while reading it! So glad I found it and will definitely be buying a copy for my class library.
538PM_Bela Patel
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book introduces race as one part of an individual's story by an award winning author. This a great book to help children understand that everyone is the same inside, the differences are in the details of our own stories. No one is better than anyone else based on their differences. It allows children to explore their own thoughts about race and what makes them unique. It is a thoughtful book with compelling pictures and layered illustrations that encourage reader to linger on each page. Thi ...more
Michelle G.
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE.
Recommended to Michelle G. by: Found it at the library.
A picture book that isn't preachy but slices straight to the point. Treats racism as a story that isn't true. Which story will we believe? The one that is told to us, or the one that we find out for ourselves? ...more
Maggi Rohde
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There is something wonderful about Julius Lester's prose. It sounds like a grandpa sitting next to you and talking, just talking -- telling you his wisdom, but never making you feel bad for not already knowing. This is the beginning, for all children, for all people. ...more
Feb 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-books
So much more than the title indicates, differences and sameness illustrated with images and brief text and powerful words.
Lisa Mcbroom
In a wonderfully informal manner, Julius Lester teaches children about race and how we should embrace diversity. Beautifully illustrated as well!!!!
Erica Clou
This one is a great start for kids to begin to explain the evils of racism.
A brilliant picture book that discusses a serious topic in a way that kids can understand. Julius Lester brings himself into the story, letting readers know who he is and how race affects him. My favorite line is "Why would some people say their race is better than another? Because they feel bad about themselves. Because they are afraid. Because." ...more
Zoe's Human
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great introduction to a big topic for young readers. The central concept is that everyone has a story. the book is loaded with questions which make it great for interactive reading. Bright eye-catching art.

Picture Book Non-fiction
Grades: PreK - 4
Ages: 4 - 15
Themes: prejudice & racism, emotions & feelings
DDC: 305.800973
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids
I love this book. I love how it approaches the topic by discussing people’s stories and I love the way it involves the physical action of touching your bones under your skin and I especially love how hilarious is it to read to a three and five year old about taking their skin off. Because it was funny and also really effective.
Jordan Pierre
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
I give this a 4.28. Its an interactive children's book that talks about the human world, how we exist, & how we relate to one another. Race is actually subjective and it is what we represent ourselves as. It is not biologically defined, nor does it mean one race is superior to another. Also taken into consideration is how wealth doesn't define us, nor does privilege, religion, preference, sexuality or language. We are all about 99.9 % genetically identical & if we stripped ourselves of our skin, ...more
Stephanie Croaning
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books, 2017
This book is a great way to begin talking to children about the subject of race and prejudice. It encourages everyone to look beyond the outside of a person to discover who they really are.

Picture book, non-fiction, empathy
Interest Level: K-5; Reading Level: 3.0
5 out of 5 stars

Julius Lester does a great job presenting the idea of race and how sometimes people form opinions about others before getting to know them. The narrator begins with:
I am a story.
So are you. So is everyone.
My story begins
Oct 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Grade/interest level: Primary/Upper Elementary
Reading level: not found
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Main Characters: narrator/author
Setting: United States
POV: narrator

Author/narrator Julius Lester addresses his readers and explores the concept of racism and how people view and treat each other. He explores how people are commonly human, but also have unique traits and experiences that make them unique. At the end, he invites the readers to take off their skin as they embrace the world an
David Korsak
The book Let's Talk about Race by Julius Lester is a picture, biography, and fiction book about people disliking people based on race. The author explains that we are all the same under our skin so we really have no reason to judge anyone based on skin color. Julius then talks about how we are so much more than our race and tells us some of the things he likes to do. At the end, Julius asks you if you, too, will take your skin off and not judge others. I selected this book because of this part a ...more
Dominic Cifuni
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
The book opens with the recurring line/ message throughout the text, and that is “I am a story”. Lester describes all people as a story, and emphasizes how we all have a different, unique beginning and elements throughout. Karen Barbour uses vibrant colors and images to emphasize that our lives are all stories, but the difference lies in the details. It discusses race as well as superiority and the feelings involved with being put down based on race.
This book can also be seen as a guide to help
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Just read this to my 4th graders and it’s amazing. So much rich discussion afterwards.
Cara Byrne
Dec 01, 2014 rated it liked it
"I am a story. So are you. So is everyone. My story begins the same way yours does: 'I was born on -----.' Take me, for example. I was born on January 27, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri. (I'm kind of old, huh?)."

In his brief picture book, Lester speaks directly to the child reader, encouraging him or her to tell his or her story, defining all of the attributes of him or herself (like favorite food, religion, heritage, etc.). Lester then asks the child to define and acknowledge his or her race, whi
Mar 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
One of the truly great writers of our time leads this thoughtful and sometimes quirky examination into the issues of what makes us different from each other, and what ultimately makes us very much the same. Julius Lester never follows the beaten trail in his writings; he always challenges and pushes us forward into new experiences, like those in this book. The tone of the words is direct and packed with many good ideas, building upon the idea that all of us are much more than any single aspect ...more
I confess myself disappointed. After hearing this book repeatedly recommended for engaging children in antiracist conversations, I had pretty high hopes, and I already enjoyed some of Lester's previous work. This is just... not what I had expected or hoped for.

The illustrations are lovely and the storytelling style is very engaging. It was a bit frustrating to see that it was largely a vehicle to support colourblindness. The story focuses on acknowledging our sameness and de-emphasizes our diffe
Shaye Miller
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this picture book. It's likely intended for children, but would be great for convo with middle graders and even teens as they attempt to cross racial lines and break down barriers.

I'll take off my skin. Will you take off yours?

The artwork is lovely -- providing both imagination mixed with realistic conversation. The variety of skin tones shared with personal details is fantastic! Oh my, everyone should get this one on their K-12 shelves. Picture books are great for everyone. This one can
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Judging by the title, I thought this book might be too heavy for my kindergartner. But when I looked at what was inside, at the whole story, I saw how great it was. (Do you see what I did there?) ;-) What a great way to talk about race, or any aspect of a person that makes them feel better than someone else. Unique illustrations too.
CreateEveryday Classroom
Unfortunately I had low expectations of this book because of the title and cover art.
The conversational story line? BIG FAN. The content of the story line? BIG FAN.
Invest in this book! Read it on repeat.
Parts of this were absolutely fantastic. I enjoyed the illustrations, which are vibrantly colorful. I loved the idea that we are all stories made up of many things, not just our race, but also our family history, our likes and dislikes, where and when we were born, our religion, and more and more things. Our stories can be similar, even if there are also differences. I appreciated his point that underneath our skin, our bones look very much alike, and that when we see a person we should not just ...more
Brenda Kahn
I loved this book when it released in 2005 and revisit it often to marvel its stunning simplicity. I featured it today in a #tbt post on the blog and realized that I never added it to GR.
Apr 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Asra Syed
I’ll have to read this to a few of the kiddos in my life before deciding on my ranking. I really like most of this book, but I’m curious how the intended audience reacts before solidifying my critique.
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Julius Lester was an American writer of books for children and adults. He was an academic who taught for 32 years (1971–2003) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was also a photographer, as well as a musician who recorded two albums of folk music and original songs.

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