Tag Archives: X

Book Club Reflection: X by Ilyasha Shabazz (2)

5 Apr

As promised, here’s another post about Ilyasha Shabazz’s novel X. This title was the Great Michigan Read selection and I believe I’ve missed all the author appearances so this may be my last post on the book. You can read my first book club discussion and book review as well.

I wondered if the discussions between these two groups would be different but they were surprisingly similar. In both, we admitted some ignorance about Malcolm X overall. Some had read the Biography of Malcolm X or seen the movie, but to many, this was new information.

There was agreement that the time jumps started to have more impact on the plot as the book went on. The farther he was from Lansing and his childhood, the more those memories seemed to guide his decisions and actions, especially upon his return to Boston and his time in jail. Malcolm’s criminal actions were a way of rebelling against what he’d been told when he felt pushed down.

We felt Malcolm was a lot like his father. Both were not afraid to speak up and be strong and loud. Sometimes, what they had to say upset people and unfortunately, we see the way that was punished in both cases. They recognized that they may run a risk but it was the best way to advance the cause they were fighting for.

We continually reminded ourselves how young Malcolm had been when he left home. We thought it would be hard to leave at any age, especially a young 15. It was probably easier to leave because he had been in a foster home and separated from his siblings. If he’d been with his mother or with more family, he would probably have stayed. He didn’t feel great times to his foster family or the system he was living in and it was easy to pick up and leave.

One of the hardest character changes for us to see was Laura. She had been dreaming so high and her aspirations were ripped right out from under her, the way Malcolm’s had been. She was also not able to land on her feet.

We had a lot of questions about Malcolm’s mother. Was Mrs. Little really mentally insane? There were things that pointed to yes and others that were a resounding no. We wondered if she was suffering from depression. The way she let her garden grow and seemed to buckle when she lost her job seemed like she’d lost hope and was no longer the vocal woman we get an impression of in Malcolm’s earlier years. She was a victim of circumstances during the depression so it’s easy to see why she could be in such a difficult position. Her decision to try to ‘pass’ as white when she was so proud of being black seems very planned and we felt that pointed to her not being mentally unstable. It was purposeful for her to act that way as a way of working and providing for her children. She was capable of that so she could be capable of caring for them.

Our next book is one many of you have commented about: The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah! I’m enjoying it so far.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Book Club Reflection: X by Ilyasha Shabazz

20 Mar

Here is the first of my two book club discussions that focused on Ilyasah Shabazz’s novel X about her father, Malcolm X. I think it’s worth noting that my two book clubs are a bit different in focus. This club tends to focus a bit more on ‘strange’ books, ones that make you think and take a very different point of view. The other is a much more traditional book club. I think it will be interesting to see how the two different groups perceive the book.

Our leader told us that people in other discussion groups had a hard time with reading a fictionalized account of an actual person. Like the last book our group read, The Paris Wife, this book had to take great liberties as to exact dialogue and fill-in action to account for what’s not known. No one in our group had specific complaints about this, but some in different discussion groups believed that without accurate details, the whole thing was too fictionalized to be taken as fact. I can see that, but I feel that it’s the overall truth, where and who and when, that tells the story, not the specific words that tell the story. The book is aimed at a YA audience and children of this age may be slightly more inclined to believe that every word was true. We thought to call out that the book is a novel on the cover may have been aimed at that age cohort.

I mentioned my opinion that the end of the book seemed rushed and another reader felt that it was more like a teaser for learning about the rest of Malcolm’s life. A few recommended his biography to continue learning about him. The conversion he experienced in prison is true, but we felt the men who pushed him on that path were a bit too convenient, saying things exactly when he was ready to hear them. It was a return to his roots and probably a more gradual process than the book had time for.

Louise Little’s institutionalization was a catalyst in Malcolm’s life. We questioned if she really should have been institutionalized but it’s hard to tell from this novel. She could have been an activist who was deemed a threat to public stability. Or, if she really did need to be institutionalized, she could have suffered from post-partem depression or even PTSD. Given the time period of the depression, it’s easy to see how taking care of eight children would be hard. We questioned the fine line between being too proud to accept public handouts and having hungry children at home. We did notice the comments about the vegetable garden and chicken coop having fallen apart since their father died so maybe she really was neglectful.

There were so many times that Malcolm made the wrong decision when you felt things were finally going to turn around for him. Like many young people, he thought he was invincible. He would never be the one to be lynched or go to jail. That happened to other people, but not him.

The comment Malcolm’s teacher made to him destroyed him and set him on a poor path into the future. He had a very high opinion of that teacher and until that moment he hadn’t experienced much racism in the classroom. He felt like what his father and mother had preached was true, that he could raise himself up on merit. When his teacher said that to him, he internalized it as his father lying to him, not as the teacher pushing him down. When he saw the pride Ella had, he felt like she wasn’t being truthful either and that being pushed down in the dirt was where he was going to end up. It’s so disheartening to see how the comments of one man could steer a boy’s life onto such a destructive path. It really makes you think about what you say and how you can hurt another person.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 14-March-2018

14 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: Still moving forward with Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling. If I keep at it, I could finish next week, but I’m not going to hold my breath. My class has picked up and isn’t leaving a lot of time for reading. I’m hoping to watch both of the movies soon after I finish it.
I feel like I’m making great progress on The Circle by Dave Eggers but it’s such a long book that I’m really inching along. I have the hold for another few weeks and I hope that I can keep it going with another check-out.
I feel like I’m making progress on Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire though it’s a bit slower than I’d like. I still don’t see where this book is going. The arc seems to be weak so I’m wondering if I haven’t gotten to the true arc yet and I’m still wandering through the exposition. If so, it’s too long.
I’m halfway through Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. Her writing is amazing and I’m glad I’m getting to experience this one in audio. It’s almost better that way! Hearing her turns of phrase out loud is great and I can’t wait to see where this one ends up.
Still holding on The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp. If I lose The Circle hold again, I’ll try to go back to it.

Recently finished: Nothing again! It will likely come as an avalanche of books finished and reviews to write again. I can’s say I particularly look forward to that but it is what it is.

I posted two reviews so at least I’m finally catching up there. I posted about John Irving’s A Widow for One Year on Thursday. I gave the book 4 out of 5 Stars. I watched the movie over the weekend and I’ll be posting about that tomorrow.
I also reviewed X by Ilyasah Shabazz and posted that yesterday. I’ll have two book club discussions and hopefully an author presentation to share for that one! I gave it 4 out of 5 Stars as well.

Reading Next: I found out I can’t get an audio copy of History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. Drats! I’ll try to finish Potter soon and pick it up then. If not, I’ll start it when I go to my next book club meeting and the issue is forced a bit more. Either way, I’ll get this one next!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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

WWW Wednesday, 28-February-2018

28 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’m back to reading Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling. I bought a White Noise song to listen to on repeat so I could read this book on the airplane I’m over half way through it now! I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with it before another book interrupts but I’m being hopeful that this will be finished before summer rolls around.
Still holding with The Circle by Dave Eggers. Sad day.
Since I was on vacation for a few days, I didn’t get a chance to listen to Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire much. I have a few drives starting today that will give me some more time with it.
It’s a slow go with Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver as well but I got at least one long run in where I could listen to it. Again, being with family all the time isn’t ideal for audiobook listening so I was a bit slow here this week.
I got through a fair chunk of The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp on the plane when I finished X (see below). The narrator’s voice is really strong and I’m still adjusting to that but enjoying it all the same.

Recently finished: I finished X by Ilyasah Shabazz on the plane! It was a good read and really informative. I’m looking forward to hearing the author speak later this year. I’m sure it will be a little emotionally charged, but reading her bio, she’s a pro at these types of presentations. She’ll probably speak this summer.

No reviews this week because of my vacation. I’ve got a huge list of posts to write and I’ll be getting around to it soon, I promise! Its going to be my main focus this weekend (besides laundry).

Reading Next: Still no plans! I’ve got too much going to think about that just yet. I’m sure something will come along in a week or so and I’ll put it here then.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 21-February-2018

21 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: Unfortunately, I’ve had to put Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling on hold for a short while for a book club selection. I’m hoping I fly through it and can get back to this soon!
I have the saddest news. I lost the hold on The Circle by Dave Eggers! I went to read it at lunch yesterday and it had returned and when I went to check it out again, I couldn’t! I’m so sad that I’ll have to wait to get back to this story.
FINALLY! I’ve just started Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire this week! It’s great to get on to a new audiobook. I’m still getting into it so not much to report here. Trying to remember the first book is taking a lot of my concentration now, haha.
I also started Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. I remember Taylor and Turtle better than I thought I would. It’s  the side characters I don’t remember well but I’m sure I’ll pick it up quickly.
I started a book club selection as well, X by Ilyasah Shabazz. This is a fictionalized account of the story of Malcolm X as written by his third daughter. Shabazz will be speaking in my area later this year (or maybe early next year) so look for quite a few more posts about this book going forward!
Because I lost the hold on The Circle, I started another ebook. This time I picked The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp. Yes, I realize that means I have six books going right now! This is a lot for me and I’m feeling more than a bit overwhelmed but I will press on!

Recently finished: I finished a book! I’m so excited to be able to say that after a long time of nothing making its way to this list. I wrapped up A Widow for One Year by John Irving. I adore Irving and this book was ‘classic Irving’ and it was great to read something of his. The last Irving book I read was very different from his normal style and topics so it feels like returning to an old friend.
I wrapped up My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante yesterday during my run. Woo! It ended a bit abruptly and I’m unsure if I want to keep reading the series and find out more about what happens to these characters. Let’s call it TBD at the moment.

No reviews this week! I’ll have ones for Irving and Ferrante soon.

Reading Next: I’m going to say I have no plans. I really hope to finish some of my six going on right now before I start worrying about what comes next. I think I have too much on my plate already, haha.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!