Pulitzer Prize, History, 2012
Years in the making, this is the definitive biography of the legendary black activist. Of the great figures in 20th-century American history, perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age 39. Through his tireless work and countless speeches, he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death, he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.
Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil-rights movement in the 50s and 60s. Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination.
Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.
©2011 Manning Marable (P)2011 Penguin
Narrative makes the world go round.
Whatever the demerits of the book as outlined by some very good previous reviews, for someone like me -- a white Canadian who had never looked into the life of Malcolm X any deeper than the film and excerpts from the Autobiography-- this was an engaging and informative read. Some have described it as scholarly; others dispute its scholarship. For me, it read like a novel and motivated me to learn more about Malcolm X. Don't be put off by the word "scholarly" --it's far from a snooze.
This is probably the biggest bang I ever got from a book purchase. The story is enormous! I finished the first read and had to go back and start all over again for the second read.
The book was so lifting for me on so many levels. The story of how Malcolm X protested against slavery while only switching masters to serve, and becoming a slave to a cult. Which lifted him up but would not set him free, and eventually ended his life with the idea that they owned it because they had effected it.
Slavery is insidious and colorblind. It is not about color, race, sex or culture. It is about a mind set.
Right now Americans can not own land! The Government has seized it all and rents it back to us under the banner of "property taxes", which keeps every American in economic slavery until the day they die for a roof over their head.
Malcolm was a hacker of the mind , who was able to hack into the mind set of slave / master and stand up and admit inconvenient truths. This is an ability anyone can bring under his command if he is destined to be a part of CHANGE.
He was also able to make the impossible, possible. To rise above conditions and become bigger than the agreed upon "think". And take others with him.
The brutality and para military cult of the Nation of Islam with it's brutality and enforcement as it was back then, (I understand it has improved conditions and reformed , with the exclusion of Louis Farrakhan's cult) is illustrated with the para military soldier copy of the mafia.
The self denial, self abnegation, self inflicted punishments, shunning, expulsions and other intolerance, that marks the cults that arose in this period are revealed. The stunning similarities to today's Church of Scientology, with the Nation of Islam Malcolm lived through several decades ago, are disturbing.
It is encouraging to note that the Nation of Islam has reformed and evolved with new leaders and new policies which prohibit abuse, and bank on self improvement and enlightenment, even though the Church of Scientology and Louis Farrakhan seem to be merging and encouraging one another to remain of a mind set that is as outdated as the Taliban we seek to bring forward with modern tolerance.
It is an amazing success story. One thing for sure, no matter your race sex or culture, no matter your identity, you will not be able to read this book and not come out the end of it without the deepest respect and admiration for Malcolm X.
A proud man is a lovely man. He did not doubt himself against every invitation to do just that from the entire world. That takes a hell of a lot of Integrity.
Prefer History & Non-Fiction. I seem to lack the stamina to "power through" a book; Audible is a great way to be "well-read" without reading
This is an interesting (even fascinating) biography of a significant personality of the 1950’s and 60’s. I found that the story was well told by Manning Marable; he provided a good level of detail and the fact that he included some contrary versions of the same story added to his credibility as a researcher and his stature as a writer. I read favorable reviews of “Malcolm X” by reputable publications like The New York Times and The Economist. Neither publication cast any doubt on the quality or depth of Marable’s research – after all, he spent 10 years on this project. I read the reviews below that questioned the book’s accuracy – if you're considering this audiobook, I would take those comments with ‘a grain of salt’.
I also liked G. Valmont Thomas’ reading of the book; his tone and pacing reminded me of Samuel L. Jackson. I particularly enjoyed the reader’s addition of various accents that helped make a relatively dry subject “come alive.” Not being an expert of regional accents, I cannot comment of their accuracy, but the various accents certainly helped when I (the listener) could not see the quote marks on the page when an individual was talking or being quoted.
The previous biography I read was the much-heralded “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. The story of Jobs was very interesting, but the quality of the narration by Dylan Baker was not all that good in my opinion. Mr. Baker would have benefitted from the use of a few accents to help convey a better story.
This audiobook comes highly recommended – both for the story and for the narration. I would recommend “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” to anyone with an open mind who’s willing to learn about an important person and significant events in the USA from 50-60 years ago.
This is the 1st and only work I have read about Malcolm X. l recently became interested in his life after hearing some of his speeches and life history in short podcasts during Black History Month.
The print version of this book may be a better option than audio because it is easier to skim or skip repetitive or tedious parts of the book. A significant part of the book is spent refuting details of Malcolm's autobiographical work with Alex Haley.The author recounts copious details of events and encounters, recalling factual interactions between Malcolm and multiple people in the Nation of Islam, without really giving depth to the non-Malcolm characters in the book. The interactions between Malcolm and the supreme leader seem especially repetitive and lack emotional context. One is left wondering why Malcolm is so devoted to the man who manipulates, shames, abuses, and takes him for granted, while simultaneously living a life of greed and adultery. I am still slogging through part 3 right now.
I would not recommend this book to anyone other than someone looking for a thorough, academic recounting of facts. Surely there is some more concise work that captures this compelling personality in a more dynamic way.
The description of Malcolm's death at the beginning of the book is very powerful and masterful storytelling.
I always find that the more I learn about civil rights era America, the more appalled I am at what people of color have had to endure and how foolish we are to believe we live in a
This book is a comprehensive and good biography of Malcolm X. It's not perfect, but it's worth reading. Anyone who read the Autobiography should read this as a valuable complement--and anyone who hasn't read the Autobiography should read that first. The subject material is so fascinating, and Marable's research so thorough, that it's an interesting and important book. Unfortunately, maybe only because Haley/Malcolm embellished the Autobiography so much, Marable's book is incredibly boring compared to that one. Either Malcolm didn't actually live the life described in the Autobiography, or Marable managed to make a colorful life much more boring than it was. I suspect some of both.
Unfortunately, G. Valmont Thomas is a very bad reader. Here are my complaints, and you can figure out for yourself whether you think these things will bother you when listening:
1. Every quote is in a character voice, which are mostly regional/ethnic/gender clichés and just weaken the quotes, rather than help readers understand the people saying them. Some of the accents are really bad.
2. Every date is read as "April three" instead of "April third." Since I've never heard anyone say this in real life, it was off-putting every single time a date came up in the text (which was often).
3. Thomas clearly didn't do research into how to pronounce names of people or places he wasn't familiar with. Two mispronunciations that I remember are Amherst, Massachusetts ("Am-herst," according to Thomas), and Ayman al-Zawahiri (just pitifully butchered). There were others too.
Marable opens the world to the Nation of Islam and the insider view of a religious sect and Malcolm X's struggle to move beyond it. Sections of the book, especially the last days of Malcolm X's life, are very engaging.
Unfortunately, the book is filled with innuendo and gossip that, in most cases, aren't back up with fact. I was left wondering why so many were attracted to him and his message.
In addition, his effort to contrast him with MLK and Obama and a black class struggle (black bourgeois vs. a poor and working class) with little supporting historical data is particularly problematic.
He dances around Malcolm X's loyalty to Elijah Muhammad (even to point of "expelling" his siblings from his life) and doesn't really explore the realities of the hold of similar cult-like organizations to its members.
Marable's focus on insider tips and commentary don't lead to an understanding of the relationships and unique attributes that enabled Malcolm X to be such a huge influence on the black nationalist movement, and black identity. In fact, you're left wondering how X could have been a key figure in the black struggle.
I'm sorry, I know the author has passed away and feel strange questioning his work as he can't answer for himself. But as I listened to parts of this I did question some of the research and wonder if it was just added for shock value and to sell books. I won't name items as I don't want to ruin the book for others but will warn, unless you can or is willing to validate some of the claims made by the author than take them with a grain of salt. Other than that the book was well organized, a bit long in places but a good tool for anyone doing scholarly research into the life of Malcolm X or the NOI / FOI / MGT. I just couldn't give it 4 stars with so many questions lingering in my head.
Good story with clumsy narration. How you tell it can make an enormous difference. I would love a redo.
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