I am Malcolm.
I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me.
They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.
Malcolm Little's young life is fraught with heartache and tragedy. After his father's murder, his family begins to unravel, no thanks to the white officials who have cut his desperate family off of government assistance and deemed his mother an unfit parent. In addition to his family unraveling, so too do his dreams when a teacher whom Malcolm trusts discourages him from aspiring to be a lawyer, despite the fact that Malcolm is a top student and also class president. His teacher only sees his skin color rather than young Malcolm's potential.
It's at this moment in his life that Malcolm wonders why he bothers even trying anymore and decides to escape to Boston where his half-sister Ella lives. It is here that Malcolm is tempted away from his once promising future into a world of nightclubs, hustling, and drugs. Malcolm thinks he has found a freedom in abandoning his past, but it's only a matter of time before the freedom he thinks he's found comes crashing down around him.
X is a fictionalized portrayal of a young Malcolm X's life, co-written by Kekla Magoon and Malcolm's daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz. This is a story that is incredibly timely given the animosity and resentment occurring in our country right now with the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Malcolm X's fight for civil rights was demonized when he was alive and is still done so to this day. In that regard, there are so many parallels that can be made from not only Malcolm's public life, but also his youth in the 1940s (when this novel takes place), to the struggles of African Americans still going on in 2014.
As I was reading X, there were many occasions when I had to put the book down to process and contemplate what I had just read. The scene with Malcolm's teacher was one such occasion because I knew despite the incendiary language used in that moment, it was something that I needed to share with my students. We are taught the power of the N word from a very young age. It is a word so powerful it can no longer be spoken. But it wasn't until the aftermath of the moment when Malcolm is called that horrific word by his teacher that I could fully internalize its power. I wanted my students to experience that same moment of horror and indignation.
X is a profound novel. It is one that can change hearts and minds. I know it did mine.
I'm not meant to be part of the
things that are wrong with the world, but neither am I meant to run from
I'm meant to fight against them.
I can't hold my own in the ring,
but out in the world, I do know how to fight.
Download the teachers' guide
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: ARC received for review from publisher
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