Decades after the civil rights movement exploded across America, as our country still struggles with the challenges of its seemingly bottomless racial rift, a new novel based on the life of Malcolm X’s young adulthood, written by the daughter of the iconic civil rights leader, is set to hit the bookshelves.
The book, X: A Novel (Candlewick Press, 2015), coincides with the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination in New York City on February 21, 1965. As a young boy, Malcolm is told by his parents that he can achieve anything, but life seems to be telling him something else. Malcolm’s father is killed when the boy is just six, and at age 13, he sees his mother taken away to a mental hospital. In school, Malcolm’s dreams of becoming a lawyer evaporate, and eventually, he gives up hope.
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Despondent, the teenage Malcolm loses himself in the nightlife of Boston and New York, and he finds himself awash in a world of hot music, fast girls, and illicit drugs. It’s an environment he finds impossible to escape, and his foray into a life of crime is soon spiraling out of his control. The young man eventually has to choose a path: the one of despair he is following, or a course that will lead him to a greater destiny that would influence generations to come.
What evolves from this beginning is an engrossing story written with the insight of Malcolm X’s third daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz (Growing Up X), and the storytelling ability of Kekla Magoon (The Rock and the River, 37 Things I Love, Fire in the Streets), who possesses a unique ability to bring historical figures to life in fiction. Together, the authors weave a fascinating tale of loss, redemption and eventual triumph as Malcolm’s years of delinquency lead to jail, a new understanding of the lessons his parents tried to teach him, and finally, a determination to change the world.
The book is being published at a time when the extremes of our national racial divide have never been more apparent. Our first African-American president is nearing the end of his term in office, but the country is polarized by incidents including the deaths of African-American men at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City. As we reach the national observation of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the messages of civil rights pioneers King and Malcolm X.
“My father and I both lost our fathers to assassination at an early age,” Shabazz said, “but my father’s voice, his beliefs and his lessons remained a vital part of my childhood. I consider it an honor and a privilege to tell the story of his life and work.”
In X: A Novel, the reader is given an inside account of the formative time that molded the man that Malcolm X would become. “Malcolm inspired me with his eloquence, his wisdom and his thirst for truth and righteousness,” said cultural icon Muhammad Ali about the novel. “This powerful, page-turning story tells us how he discovered these qualities within himself.”