Authors: Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
Genre: YA fiction/historical fiction
PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: A book whose title starts with Q X or Z
Back when I was teaching middle school, I handed my students two excerpts of pieces of writing: “The Ballot or the Bullet” and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I didn’t tell the kids the authors of either. After they read them, we had a discussion about which was more powerful, better written, more persuasive, etc. Hands-down, they selected “Ballot or the Bullet” as the piece they gravitated toward. Then, I played an audio recording of both authors. I can’t remember if it was the same pieces of writing or not, but the kids immediately switched sides. As powerful of a writer as Malcolm X was, Dr. King’s speaking ability was second to none. The lesson was a really great way to compare the written word vs. spoken word, not to mention how different Malcolm X’s and Dr. King’s beliefs were.
I bought this book on my kindle ages ago but never got around to reading it….story of my life. And I had completely forgotten what it was even about. But since it fit the prompt and was one I already had, it was an easy decision to select this one. I’m so glad I did. Co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, this book is a fictionalized (based on facts, of course) account of Malcolm’s childhood and teenage years. He’s arrested and incarcerated toward the end of the book, and his prison time is briefly described. At the end of the book, he abandons his last name and changes to X.
From Goodreads: Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer.
X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.
But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.
This book is fantastic. I don’t know much about Malcolm X’s background, let alone details of his childhood. I’ve never read his autobiography (for no particular reason…just never have). As much as I try to educate myself of important Black authors and activists, I am seriously lacking. I’ve never read James Baldwin, Richard Wright, or WEB DuBois. I am making a point to read more current Black authors, learning their stories, listening to their voices, but the formative authors are ones I need to investigate. And this book is an excellent way for young people, as well as for me, to do that.