Friday, April 22, 2016

YA Friday - X: a novel

X tells the story of Malcolm's childhood and adolescence, most of which has been previously unknown. We follow Malcolm on a journey, starting with when he is ripped away from his mother and moved into a white foster home. He eventually goes to Boston to live with his half sister Ella, trying to find out who he is among the excitement of jazz clubs, jobs, which Malcolm refers to as "slaves," and girls, both white and black. Eventually, Malcolm moves to Harlem, learning the ways of the hustle. While X is a work of fiction, the novel has a strong foundation in truth based on stories from family and friends. The author of the novel, Malcolm's daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, provides a detailed account of how the book came together, along with a timeline, historical details about the time period of Malcolm's life and an extensive book list for future reading.

I have to admit my extreme ignorance here. While I was somewhat aware that racism existed above the Mason-Dixon line, I thought lynchings and people getting beat up for crossing the race line was something that only happened in the South. I was clueless that these things also happened where Malcolm X grew up in Lansing, Michigan or in Boston, Massachusetts. I also knew next to nothing about Malcolm X's life other than he was a Muslim and that his civil rights message was contrary to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's one of nonviolent protest.

Reading this book was a good reminder that racism isn't a regional problem, it is an American problem. People still don't understand hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #weneeddiversebooks.  #blacklivesmatters doesn't mean that black lives are the only lives that matter or that people shouldn't have respect for police officers. It means that there is a problem with some police officers stereotyping and racial profiling young black males, which has led to innocent lives being lost.

As for #weneeddiversebooks, ALL students need to be able to see themselves in the books they are reading, as well as see others so they can develop the empathetic skills needed to grow up in a diverse world. Right now picture books are dominated by white male authors/illustrators, and middle grade/young adult novels are dominated by white female authors. Author Grace Lin refers to it as windows and mirrors in her excellent TED talk.

X: a novel is recommended for teenagers and adults. I plan to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X to learn more about this important civil rights leader.

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