04 November 2014

Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magonn, X. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015.

This title is marketed as a young adult novel, but it is really as close to an authorized biography of civil rights activist Malcolm X as could be written.

The author takes her father’s chosen name, Shabazz. Her book tells of him as Malcolm Little, himself the son of a murdered civil rights activist. She tells the story Malcolm glossed over in his Autobiography--the story of Detroit Red. And though she was only three when her father was killed, Ms. Shabazz has a large, close, and proud family full of stories and correspondence to draw from. With Magoon’s help, she brings a brash fifteen-year-old runaway in the 1940’s into focus. She doesn’t ignore her character’s imperfections or the allure of the big-city life-style that brings him low, but uses a concluding author note to explain that Malcolm’s troubles were what allowed him to be such an effective leader--he knew the temptations, the indignities, and the injustice his brothers faced; they knew he could relate to their lives, and they to his. Even without this note, though, Shabazz closes the story with an image of Malcolm taking on his new name, X, and with it his new calling. It’s an uplifting tale of redemption, never mind how important the redeemed would become, and a good fit for any middle- or high-school library.



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