Monday, 30 January 2017

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
First published by Candlewick Press in America in January 2015. Candlewick on Brilliance Audio edition, narrated by Dion Graham, published in January 2015.
Winner of the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the audiobook from Audible via /
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Downloaded from AudioSYNC

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am Malcolm.
I am my father's son.
But to be my father's son means that they will always come for me.
They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.
Malcolm Little's parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that's nothing but 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 when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. 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.

Co-written by his daughter, X is a fictionised biography of American Civil Rights activist Malcolm X, however it interested me because the book tells the story of his formative years from school age until his early twenties. I knew nothing about this time for him and little about life for black people in 1940s Boston and Harlem.

X is intended as a YA novel so there is significant repetition of key scenes and phrases, but the writing doesn't shy away from violent realities and copious drug use. I liked how we see the young Malcolm believing himself to always be 'on the up' even as his physical and mental health are really sliding downhill and his character is both believable and compelling. Short factual essays following the novel give further insights into Malcolm's America and how the novel differs in small details from true life. It is frightening that such vicious discrimination was commonplace until so recently and campaigns such as #BlackLivesMatter show such outdated attitudes have still not truly disappeared.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ilyasah Shabazz / Historical fiction / Books from America


  1. Oh, this is cool and a bit of an oxymoron since it's fiction but based on history. I dig it. :)

    1. Agreed! I initially thought it odd that Shabazz didn't stick to facts and write a biography, but her approach of imagining conversations is a good device to pull listeners more deeply into Malcolm's story.

  2. I have heard of this one before, and it is already on my TBR! I know a lot about Malcolm X and the civil rights movement in general, but it would be so interesting to read this biography. The writing style seemed to hinder you a bit, but as I am the YA audience, maybe I will find it to be more catered to me.

    1. I hope you like . I was fascinated to see the environment Malcolm X came from and it's incredible that he then completely turned his life around