Review of “This is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias” by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

In this era of the ascendancy of fake news, conspiracy theories, and prejudices run wild, this is a critical book to help readers understand how and why we try to make sense (or lack of sense) of the world around us.

The book begins with an “Introduction” in which the author explains how our brains begin sorting both things and people into categories from the time we are babies. She writes:

“When we group people into a category, and assume they all share certain traits, that’s called a stereotype. Some stereotypes seem to be based on facts. . . . [She gives examples of anecdotes or limited experience leading to conclusions about others.] But not all stereotypes are true. By relying on people-categories in our brains, we can make false assumptions. We can even act unfairly toward certain people, all because we’ve jumped to bad conclusions.”

And, she notes, real people can pay the price.

Five chapters follow. They overlap a bit, but each one expands upon the information imparted in previous chapters. The first explores some common prejudices. Chapter two, “Secret Messages,” explains how stereotypes and prejudice don’t live in our rational minds, and therefore are resistant to “knowing better.” In chapter three, we learn how we even unconsciously apply stereotypes to ourselves in addition to using them to form expectations about others.

Chapter four discusses ways stereotypes have been challenged in the popular culture. Chapter five tackles strategies for change on a more personal level. A short conclusion summarizes ideas to help effect change, including “Stand with the Victim,” “Get Help,” “Get Involved,” “Speak Up,” and “Expand Your Horizons.” Suggestions for further reading on the subject follow.

Illustrator Drew Shannon adds cartoon-like illustrations and intermittent text-boxes to add interest to the material.

Awards include:

2020 – Best Informational Books for Older Readers of 2020, Chicago Public Library, Winner
2020 – Books of the Year: Books for Young People, Quill & Quire, Winner
2020 – Middle-Grade Nonfiction Award, Cybils Awards, Finalist

Evaluation: This book not only includes a list of books for further reading at the back, but also “Selected Sources” for the research discussed.

While fact-checking sites are not given, these sites may also be helpful for readers:

Factcheck.org (from the Annenberg Public Policy Center)
Politifact.com (nonpartisan fact-checking website created by the Tampa Bay Times and acquired by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalists)
TheFact-Checker.com (from the Washington Post)
Pew Research Center Fact Tank
The Century Foundation (an independent think tank)
Open Secrets.org (the most comprehensive resource for federal campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis; features tracking money and how it affects politics.)
Snopes.com (specializes in internet memes)

Parents and teachers can benefit hugely from the studies reviewed in this book; the number of discussions it will suggest are numerous and can be applied to a variety of different subject areas. Suggested audience is for grades 7 and up.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Kids Can Press, 2020

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