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Publisher's Summary

Brave, clear-eyed, and passionate, Stakes Is High is the book we need to guide us past crisis mode and through an uncertain future.

The events of the past decade have forced us to reckon with who we are and who we want to be. We have been invested in a set of beliefs about our American identity: our exceptionalism, the inevitable rightness of our path, and the promise that hard work and determination will carry us to freedom. But in Stakes Is High, Mychal Denzel Smith confronts the shortcomings of these stories - and with the American Dream itself - and calls on us to live up to the principles we profess but fail to realize. 

In a series of incisive essays, Smith exposes the stark contradictions at the heart of American life, holding all of us, individually and as a nation, to account. We've gotten used to looking away, but the fissures and casual violence of institutional oppression are ever-present. 

There is a future that is not as grim as our past. In this profound work, Smith helps us envision it with care, honesty, and imagination.

©2020 Mychal Denzel Smith (P)2020 Bold Type Books

Critic Reviews

 [Smith] is sharply self-aware, and he would seem to expect his reader to approach his fine-honed argument with the same seriousness. Doing so is well worth the effort. An urgent and provocative work that deserves the broadest possible audience." (Kirkus Reviews, starred)

"I want this book in the hands of everyone it would affect, which is to say, those with power and those lacking power; those of every race and ethnicity who are affected by the United States government; those who have hope, those who do not, and those who are somewhere in between. Smith writes with urgency and brilliance, honing prose to a fine glimmer as he demonstrates, again and again, life after the American Dream." (Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias)

"Slim, impactful...Stakes Is High is a polemic in the best sense of the word, holding up a mirror to America in the hope that a clear-eyed glimpse of its failings will assist in the never-ending struggle to bring about the righteous nation it has always aspired to be." (Booklist, starred)

What listeners say about Stakes Is High

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  • JAS
  • 17-05-2021

Good Read.

Mychal conveys anger and other emotions that can be experienced during these trying times. His though process wanders at times and he provides little relief in the lament.

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  • J Carlos Perez
  • 08-03-2021

Brilliant thinker with a true gift for writing

I waited too long to read this book. Hearing it read by the author enriches the experience.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-01-2021

Right Now

I enjoyed this book. Smith began by referencing one of of my favorites songs of all time, The Space Program by A Tribe Called Quest. This immediately helped me to resonate and connect with the information he was presenting. We have had work to do, we have work to do, and we will have work to do. We have to keep striving forward to eliminate White Supremacy and shift many of the failing systems in our country, but it ultimately it begins with us. I highly recommend this book to any of you who have yet to read it. It contains honest information that can help us all. Peace and love, Wayne

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  • Mara
  • 17-12-2020

Kirkus got it right!

Believe the hype. Well worth the read and listen...Smith also reads his work superbly. He makes a well-researched “plea for community” to unite for necessary change. I will make sure I own, re-read and study this book and then recommend it to everyone I can!

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  • Bikeopeli
  • 22-11-2020

Degeneration of the American fascist

The trump era represents the degeneration of the American fascists as racism confronts the rising tide of identity politics for representation.

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  • AfroSweetiePie
  • 15-11-2020

Very insightful and timely perspective.

I enjoyed the essays. I think a more polished narrator would have made beneficial in keeping the reader focused.

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