The Awakening of Malcolm X: A Novel

Written by Tiffany D. Jackson
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

At the age of twenty, Malcolm Little was imprisoned for stealing. In first-person narration, Malcolm tells of his time in prison, with flashbacks to memories of his childhood in Michigan and his time in Boston and Harlem before his arrest. For seven years, Malcolm was incarcerated, moving between the brutally run Charleston State Prison and the less restrictive Norfolk Prison Colony. When he first arrives in prison, Malcolm puts together his “hussle,” selling reefer, acting as a bookie, and trying to be cool. A few older prisoners caution him about this behavior, and their guidance reminds him of his father. He feels great shame for who he has become, but he doesn’t know what to do. Slowly, with the help of family and friends, he remembers who he was and who he still might be. His conversion to Islam lifts him up. Through religion and extensive reading, he becomes Malcolm X, the leader.

The Awakening of Malcolm X is a well-crafted novel, written by Malcolm’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz with the aid of young adult author Tiffany D. Jackson to bring Malcolm X’s story to a new generation. Malcolm is a relatable character for young adults: After the murder of his father and the institutionalization of his mother, he hides his anger and confusion by trying to be cool. This leads him down a dangerous path. His awakening is slow and hard found. An instructive and engaging story, this book models a path of strength and redemption for struggling youth. Highly recommended.