X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
(Brilliance Audio, 2015)
Read by Dion Graham
This title is a nominee in the 2016 Audie Awards: Young Adult Category
From Goodreads: “Co-written 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 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.”
Just before I started this, my son (who’s taking US History in high school) started telling me about Malcolm X, and I realized I’d never thought about his life before he ‘became’ Malcolm X. Growing up the son of activists in the 30s and 40s, living as a newbie hustler in Boston at 17 when PearlHarbor was bombed, knowing that everything he did would be falling into expected roles or hard-fought due to the absolute dearth of opportunities in a world where lynching was normal. Shabazz and Magoon aren’t forgiving of his taking the easy path with his drug dealing, racketeering, or the hedonistic pleasures of music and sex and sharp suits, but they do contextualize his life by allowing Malcolm to see and reflect on the micro and macro societies around him.
Dion Graham has a voice full of jazz, so it’s a pleasure to listen to his narration of X. He takes the time to fully immerse himself in the emotion of the moment, whether Malcolm is saying goodbye to his siblings before boarding the bus to Boston, or playing friendly vendor to get bigger tips from the white passengers on the Yankee Clipper to New York. His narration made me feel close to the action throughout.