Archive | 10:18 AM

Book Review X by Ilyasah Shabazz (4/5)

12 Mar

This book was selected by the Michigan Humanities Council as the Great Michigan Read this time around. That means that we’ll have multiple book club discussions on it and that the author will be visiting the area to talk in the coming months. So get ready to see a lot more about this book! I’m glad it was one I enjoyed.

Cover image via Goodreads

X: a Novel by Ilyasha Shabazz with Kekla Magoon

Summary 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.

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.

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.

Shabazz is the daughter of Malcolm X and though her father was killed while he was a child, she’s done great work at retelling her father’s story. The book concentrates more on the time Malcolm spends in Boston with flashbacks to his childhood in Lansing and his relationship with his siblings. There is some about his time in New York and being sent to jail, but the focus is on Boston. Malcolm changed a lot in Boston so this is logical. It was interesting to see how quickly he could be lured away from what his father had always taught him and how quickly it seemed to be a good idea to move away from that. I liked how the story drew in major historical events from the time as well. Though Malcolm didn’t serve in the army, it was good to see how it affected his life and I’m glad it was mentioned.

Shabazz did a great job of including the details of her father’s life. The people he meets and interacts with seem very three dimensional except for Sophia. I felt she was too much of a stereotype and I couldn’t like her even from the beginning. She was so shady and sketchy that I couldn’t understand Malcolm’s attraction to her. With the way she played out in the end, it makes a bit more sense, but I never believed her as a character.

Ella was my favorite character. She’s more like a mother than a sister to Malcolm and I loved how much she cared for him and wanted good things for him. She was the guidance he needed but didn’t heed and I felt bad for her because she was so ignored when she was the voice of reason and good counsel. I liked how much she tried to help Malcolm. I felt that I would be like her and I would want her in my life if I weren’t her.

These weren’t characters I particularly related to and I think that’s what made me like the book. I know this is different from what I normally say, so hear me out. This book made me uncomfortable several times. This book focused on injustices and segregation that were at the hands of whites. There were many parts of this book that I know would not fly today but still made me angry to think that they’d happened at all. They made me embarrassed of the history of my country and particularly Michigan. I’m sure this could be said about a number of things and places and people but this book really drove home for me how different my life is from Malcolm’s.

Ilyasah Shabazz
Image via NJEA Convention

Malcolm’s time in New York was the most interesting and entertaining for me. I could feel the thrill of danger that he was feeding off of and the rush of excitement. I also felt when it was too much, like Malcolm did, and was glad to get out when it was time.

His time in jail was my least favorite only because it felt rushed and glossed over. His family was clearly a big influence on his conversion while there and he was very introspective. I felt that more time could have been spent here because these moments were critical in building him into the man he became. What came before, while interesting and entertaining, could have been shortened to spend more time on this major change.

People change. Malcolm is a great example of this. He went from a man making a living on the wrong side of the law to someone who preached religion. His roots were in political activism and his teenage years took him away from that. But he came back. Young people have to be forgiven their trespasses. It’s one of the ways people grow. Not everyone needs to rebel to become who they’re meant to be, but many do, and it’s making sure they have a path back to a good life and that they can follow it that will grow healthy adults in a productive society.

Writer’s Takeaway: The book did a great job of showing racial injustice. Malcolm’s relationship with Sophia demonstrated this best but there were instances of work injustice and judicial injustice that made me uncomfortable and helped me realize how far our country has come toward equality because of people like Malcolm X. There is still far to go, but great leaders like Malcolm X and his contemporaries pushed for radical jumps that were needed.

I liked this book and I enjoyed binge-reading it on an airplane. It was the distraction I needed from sleep deprivation and hunger. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfills the 1940-1959 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Ilyasah Shabazz on Why She Doesn’t Feel Pressure As the Daughter of Malcolm X [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] | The Ed Lover Show
Drew hosts Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X | The Drew Acorn
Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X reflects on his life and legacy | WGN9