Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

malcolmxby Manning Marable
audio book: read by G. Valmont Thomas

I listened to this historically detailed and intimate personal portrait of Malcolm X over a month: while washing dishes and walking to and from subway stations.  I never read the autobiography which has been the prescribed text on school curriculum about Malcolm X, and only encountered him as a historical figure in other nonfiction books, mostly for children, about the Civil Rights Movement.  So it is that this is how I got to know the man and his many phases on the road to becoming the internationally influential personality.  I learned much about the Nation of Islam (NOI,) and much about the inter-plays between him and other leaders of the civil rights movement — especially Bayard Rustin, whose story has just begun to surface as another major thread of the Movement.

The book is full of painstakingly gathered details of Malcolm’s life — from his parents’ struggles before he was born, the family’s roles as Garveyites, Malcolm’s youthhood filled with brushes against the law and his inevitable imprisonment, his extreme attachment and final rebellion against the Nation of Islam and its doctrines, his many international trips to observe first hand the Orthodox Islam’s practices, and to his final days when he adopted Pan-Africanism and evolved into a much more open-minded commentator on social struggles: that the color of one’s skin does not necessarily dictate one’s political or social views and status.

I cannot but wonder, just as the biographer historian did in the epilogue, how more influential Malcolm would have been to the Movement if he had been given the chance to live beyond his 40th birthday…. (he was murdered just 3 months short of it.)  It’s with a heavy heart that I stopped the audio player…

Marable’s words brought Malcolm to life and actor Thomas’ skillful reading of the narrative did the text justice, or perhaps even enhanced it.  I really appreciated both for their art.

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