Article Title



Carlie Smith


Excellent, Young Adult, Ilyasah Shabazz, Kekla Magoon, Malcom X, World War II, Great Depression, Civil Rights, Jazz, Harlem, African Americans

Document Type

Book Review


Before he was X, Malcolm had many titles: son, brother, Negro, dancer, Detroit Red, and thief. This novel explores Malcolm’s early years before he became one of the most influential civil rights activists. Haunted from an early age by the injustice of his father’s assassination and his mother’s confinement in a mental institution, Malcolm quickly learned street survival skills. He leaves Lansing, Michigan for the progressive Roxbury neighborhood of Brooklyn and falls in love with the dancing clubs, zoot suits, and “cool cat” hustlers. He sheds his small-town identity to become Red, a petty criminal, the boyfriend of a white woman, and friend of jazz musicians. Work opportunities lead Malcolm to Harlem where he becomes an associate of Sammy the Pimp and bookie West Indies Archie. But one of his deals goes badly awry in a haze of drugs and dancing so Malcolm retreats back to Boston. There he finds the best and most risky gig yet, robbing the wealthy white neighborhood with his girlfriend. Malcolm is eventually caught and sentenced to prison at 23 years old. This world away from the streets forces him to confront his true identity as the son of religious, powerful, and proud black activists. He learns of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam and decides to become a new man, Malcolm X.