X: A Novel

Written by Ilyasah Shabazz Kekla Magoon
Review by Shannon Gallagher

Malcolm X is one of the most misunderstood and maligned figures of the 20th century. X: A Novel takes us from his childhood years up to his release from the Norfolk Prison Colony in 1948. Co-written by his daughter, X gives the reader a personal and informed understanding of Malcolm X and humanizes the man behind the icon.

Malcolm Little grows up in Lansing, Michigan in a family of eight children who tragically lose their strong and independent-minded father, Earl, under suspicious circumstances. Earl had challenged racial injustice and taught his children the message of Marcus Garvey – “Up, up, you mighty race” – and for daring to question those in power, he is murdered. For ten years following Earl’s death, Malcolm’s mother, Louise, fights to keep her family together during the tough years of the Great Depression. Eventually the state intervenes, commits her to a mental institution, and sends five of her children into foster care.

Following the breakup of his family, Malcolm moves to Boston to live with his half-sister, Ella. The next years of his life are full of turmoil and discontent rooted in grief, from both the loss of his parents and the dispersal of his siblings. Malcolm wastes these years getting high, hustling, and thieving, which eventually ends in an eight-year prison sentence. However, prison is his salvation; for the first time in his life, he has time to think. He reconciles within himself the death of his father and also his own rejection of all his father’s beliefs. He emerges from prison determined to carry on his father’s legacy and begins by discarding the name of his ancestor’s slave-owner: Little. He is now Malcolm X.

I can’t recommend this novel enough.