At BookTrib, we are always looking for new opportunities to connect readers and writers. Our latest partnership is with The Mary Sue, a site with “intense passion for… fan trends, social issues, geek fashion and art, innovative gadgets, and beyond.” This week, The Mary Sue is sharing with our readers an exclusive of Ilyasah Shabaaz speaking on her book Betty Before X.
Betty Shabazz (born Betty Dean Sanders) may be known to some as simply the wife of Malcolm X, but to reduce her to that belies a legacy all her own. Much like Coretta Scott King, after the death of her husband, Shabazz worked not only to continue on her husband’s fight, safeguard his legacy from inaccurate portrayals, but also raise their six children. One of their daughters, Ilyasah Shabazz, is the co-author of the middle-grade book about Betty Shabazz called Betty Before X.
In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.
Inspired by Betty’s real life–but expanded upon and fictionalized through collaboration with novelist Renée Watson–Ilyasah Shabazz illuminates four poignant years in her mother’s childhood with this book, painting an inspiring portrait of a girl overcoming the challenges of self-acceptance and belonging that will resonate with young readers today.
In addition to this novel, Shabazz has also co-written the YA title X: A Novel, about the young life of her father as well as a more middle-grade title Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X. Her own memoir Growing Up X was released to great critical acclaim.
When it comes to the Civil Rights movements, the sacrifices that women and wives made, not just for their own personal safety, but the safety of their children, cannot be understated. Women like Betty Shabazz had to be advocates for themselves and their families. After the death of her husband, Betty Shabazz raised six children and provided them with the comforts and access to education and safety.
In addition to being a mother, a Civil Rights advocate, and her volunteer work, in 1972, Shabazz enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to pursue an Ed.D. in higher education administration and curriculum development. For three years, she drove from Mount Vernon to Amherst, Massachusetts, every Monday morning, and stayed there until Wednesday evenings. In July 1975, she defended her dissertation and earned her doctorate.
So that’s Dr. Betty Shabazz: wife, mother, doctor, icon.