A Novel

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book

Cowritten by Malcolm X's daughter, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world.

Malcolm Little's parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that's a pack of lies--after all, his father's been murdered, his mother's been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There's no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer. But Malcolm's efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he's found is only an illusion--and that he can't run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.
Publisher: Somerville : Candlewick Press, 2016.
ISBN: 9780763690922
Branch Call Number: YA FIC Shaba
Characteristics: 348 pages : illustration ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Magoon, Kekla - Author


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Sep 26, 2017

This book is a great inside look at Malcolm X's upbringing. Knowing that his daughter wrote it makes it much more relatable. I love the structure where it's almost like a diary.

ellie_o Jun 18, 2016

I found this book fascinating, especially reading it after "Out of Darkness" and at the same time as "March, Vol. 2"
I learned so much about Malcom X's early life from this book, which was great as an audiobook. It's a great example of narrative nonfiction that has a great hook - young Malcom is irresistible as a main character. His daughter does an excellent job in portraying a real person - faults and all - in this story of his youth. I would love to see this being used to help contextualize history for youth - I found it to be a great conversation starter in my GSC's discussions of "March."

Feb 27, 2016

I really liked the historical setting, Boston and Harlem in the 30s and 40s. The straightforward narration didn't draw me in right away, but once Malcolm got to the city and started working at jazz clubs, buying zoot suits and getting caught up in small-time hustling, I was fascinated. I can't remember reading much previously about this time period from the point of view of African-Americans in the city. I think it would be really interesting to modern city kids, to compare their experiences with Malcolm's. The music and the styles are different, but they'd probably recognize a lot.

I would have liked the pace to be a little slower, and get to know more of the side characters who seemed intriguing, but I never felt like I fully got to know them. It makes sense that events would move pretty briskly to fit in the real stories of Malcolm's youth. Others would probably appreciate the quick pace, which also manages to fit in the back story of his childhood. There are also a good number of interesting and relevant details; for example, the "conk" hairstyle that Malcolm X would later be critical of. Someone who went on to learn more about Malcolm X after reading this would probably uncover even more depth and similar connections.

JCLChrisK Jan 12, 2016

This is a story of jaded idealism. Of what happens when a young man raised to believe stops believing. How he turns his talent, intelligence, and charisma to living in the present and trying to squeeze every bit of pleasure from each moment with no thought to the future (and trying to suppress the past).

Teen Malcolm Little has always been taught by his parents that his people have a proud history that they can recapture with enough hard work. His father was a leader in the movement to bring about that reality. His father was killed for being such a leader when Malcolm was six. His mother struggled to find enough work during the depression to feed their large family. Ten years later, his mother was institutionalized as incompetent by the government for not bending her proud beliefs about accepting credit, eating pork, and other welfare offers. Starving, split from his family, surrounded by lynchings, told by his favorite teacher that despite getting perfect grades and being class president he'll never be anything in the real world but [Black], teen Malcolm Little has always been taught by experience to feel disillusioned about success and hard work. He heads to the city to make a name for himself on the streets, make a living as a hustler, and drown himself in as much drink, drugs, party life, and sex as he can acquire.

Malcolm X was killed when his third daughter (of five) was three. In this mildly fictionalized account, she and Kekla Magoon have pieced together family stories, letters, and intimate histories to recount her father's youth, before he converted to Islam and became famous as a Civil Rights leader. The narrative jumps back and forth from his early years with his family to his life on the streets as a hustler, ending with a very brief telling of his arrest and time in prison. It makes sense of what Malcolm found seductive about the party scene without shirking from what he did. It also makes sense of how he ended as Malcolm X not by becoming something entirely new but by returning to where he started. It makes him sympathetic and real. It tells a story many will relate to and find inspiration in (if only by extrapolating Malcolm's life after the end of this book).

LMcShaneCLE Nov 24, 2015

Kekla Magoon skillfully revisits a turning point in the life of Malcolm Little better known as Malcolm X. Written in collaboration with Malcolm's daughter Ilyasah Shabazz - add this fresh account to the cannon of classic young adult literature on civil rights in America.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

LibrarianDest Jan 28, 2016

LibrarianDest thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Jun 03, 2015

Re_Bel thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at VPL

To Top