X: A Novel
X A Novel
Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
ISBN 9780763669676
Candlewick, 2015.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: a-novel african-american-history civil-rights family ilyasah-shabazz-and-kekla-magoon malcolm-little malcolm-x

X: A Novel
by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

Malcolm X's third daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz (Growing Up X), and Kekla Magoon (The Rock and the River) team up for a riveting first-person narrative based on the childhood and adolescence of Malcolm Little, who grew up to become Malcolm X.

The authors follow Malcolm from his childhood home in 1930s Lansing, Mich., through his move as a teenager to his half-sister Ella's home in Boston, to becoming a numbers runner in Harlem, and his later imprisonment for theft. It ends with his opening up to the teachings of the Nation of Islam: "This place. These walls. They don't contain me," he says. The authors describe how Malcolm's early desperation led to a feeling of entitlement, once he was exposed to the high life in the Roxbury section of Boston. He works his way from shoeshine boy at Roseland Ballroom to dancing on the floor himself--and catching the eye of a sexy white woman named Sophia. Readers will sense trouble brewing even as sparks fly between them.

Although this is a work of fiction, it's strongly tethered to the facts, to the people and events that contributed to Malcolm's world view and his path to becoming a leader. Shabazz's endnotes indicate what's true and where she took artistic license. Malcolm's voice is often funny, always perceptive, and as appreciative of beauty as he is critical of the disparity between the rights of whites and blacks. This novel leads fluidly into The Autobiography of Malcolm X, for those wishing to know more of this remarkable man's journey.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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