Friday, June 12, 2015

Review: X

X: A Novel
By Illyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon, read by Dion Graham
Published 2015 by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio

Malcolm Little had always believed he could do anything he wanted - his parents told him so. But when his father is murdered, his mother is committed and his family is torn apart, he no longer knows what to believe. All he knows is that he must start a new life somewhere. But will Malcolm make the right choices on this new path? Or is he bound for a dangerous future?

I have been participating in the Sync program for several years now and I love it - I listen to audiobooks regularly anyway, and this is a way to listen to some that may not be available through my library. I was thrilled to see it come back again this summer and even more excited to see the line-up of titles. Just when I was in need of something new to listen to, this title hit the rotation.

My main disappointment with this book is that it ends when there is still so much of Malcolm's life to explore. However, I completely understand why this book ends - it is a study of Malcolm's adolescence, his growing into a young man, his becoming the person most know as Malcolm X. My disappointment is only that I don't actually know much about Malcolm X - before, during, or after the time he was known by that name and this book made me want to know more. Really, what this means is that this was a great book, one that inspired me to find more information about something I know very little about.

This is a fictionalized account of Malcolm X's coming of age and it was very engaging. Keeping up with the various timelines (the story jumps around a bit between points in time) was a bit tricky while listening, but overall, I enjoyed listening to this one. I thought Graham was a great narrator (I think I've listened to him before) and I loved the subtle changes he used for the different characters.

While this book made me want to learn more about Malcolm X's life, it also felt a bit serial - just a series of events occurring without a unifying thread (aside from the fact that someday this person will grow up to be Malcolm X). There's nothing terribly extraordinary about his life before he becomes Malcolm X, but that doesn't mean his life is not worth reading about. It captures a very interesting point in our history and the author's notes at the end of the story may have been my favorite part of this. Shabazz explains why she chose to tell this story (she is one of Malcolm's daughters) and then goes into the characters and historical context of the novel. I really enjoyed hearing more about the real world connections to the fictionalized version of events I'd just read and I think this may have been a big part of my feeling inspired to learn more.

I think this is a really fascinating piece of historical fiction, if a bit disjointed in its telling. But I'm glad to have read it and hope to explore more about Malcolm X in the future.

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