A novel by Ilyasah Shabazz
Ilyasah Shabazz is the third daughter born to Malcolm X. He was assassinated when she was three years old, so the book is not comprised of her personal memories. She has compiled stories from friends and relatives of her father to write this book which is mostly about his youth. His formative years were spent in Michigan. He moved to Lansing when he was four and left for Boston when he was 16. This book details his time growing up in Lansing through his imprisonment in Boston.
Ilyasah does not tell the story of Malcolm Little in chronological order, but jumps back and forth in time between his early days in Lansing and his teenage years in Boston. All the information in the time periods is interesting and relevant to how Malcolm Little became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X. The flashbacks in the book did become distracting at times. They were not in chronological order so the reader must pay close attention to dates to understand what age Malcolm was when jumping back and forth. The Boston periods appeared to be in chronological order, it was just the flashbacks that would jump around.
Malcolm Little grew up in poverty. His father passed away when Malcolm was very young and his mother struggled to raise him and his siblings. His mother was not healthy and the children are taken away when Malcolm is thirteen. Louise Little was a very stubborn woman and she would not accept assistance from the government so the children had little to eat. This was when Malcolm began his petty crimes stealing to feed the family. His mother was light-skinned and took jobs that black women were not allowed to do in order to feed her family. She would always be caught and fired, but the children would eat better when she was employed.
Malcolm’s crimes were mostly petty crimes in Lansing, but that all changes in Boston. In Lansing, he would steal food to feed his family. In Boston, he increased his level of crimes and he was involved in drinking, drugs, and theft. He was eventually caught and spent time in jail. Prior to his release from jail, he converted to Islam and began his path to becoming the activist known as Malcolm X.
I found this book to be very informative and interesting. As I read this book, I wondered how different it might have been if his father had not passed away when Malcolm was so young. After completing the book, I can’t help but think that Malcolm X would not have become the man that he had if he had not experienced all the experiences that were described in the book. I thought that the flashbacks at times took away from the story of Malcolm X because I would be confused about how old he was and at what point in his life these things were occurring. I was also waiting throughout the book to find out what happened to Earl Little’s first wife. It was never explained how Malcolm came about having a half-sister. I did enjoy reading about people and topics that we were studying in our class. Marcus Garvey, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington. I also enjoyed reading about zoot suits and the painful process of a conk. Another interesting concept in the book was how Malcolm referred to jobs as slaves. I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in the history of Malcolm X.