X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
This is the story of Malcolm X’s boyhood and teen years. Malcolm Little grew up during the Depression, surviving on dandelion greens soup after his father is murdered. When his mother gains the attention of social services, Malcolm is moved out of the family home and away from his days of stealing melons from patches and apples from stands to fill his belly. When Malcolm gets a chance to leave his foster home and head to live with his half-sister in Boston, he jumps at the chance. Boston and its neighborhoods are a buzz with activity and nightlife and Malcolm immediately joins the fray, turning his back firmly on the way he was raised. Malcolm continues to explore the dangerous side of society by dealing reefer, drinking, and dating a white woman. He moves to Harlem where the jazz is even more incredible and where he really gets into serious trouble. This novel follows Malcolm from his childhood until he is imprisoned for theft at age 20 and eventually converts to Islam.
Shabazz is one of the daughters of Malcolm X and according to the Authors Note at the end of the book the story while fiction is firmly based in real life people and events. The writing prowess of Magoon is also here in full force, directing a story that is a headlong dash into sex, drugs and jazz into something that speaks volumes about the intelligence and emotions of the young man at its center. The result is a book that shines light on difficult years of Malcolm X’s life where he lost himself and then the tremendous results of having returned and found himself again.
There is such emotion here on the page. Malcolm’s heart shows in each interaction he has, each moment of losing himself that he manages to find. It is a road map of hope for those who are lost to these moments in their lives that you can return and be better than ever. It also shows the humanity behind the historical figure, the real boy behind the legend.
Powerful, gritty and honest, this novel expands what young readers know about Malcolm X and offers hope for those in their own crisis. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Candlewick Press and Netgalley.