Customer Reviews: Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America
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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars14
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on June 22, 2004
This book is good if only for the insight into Malcolm's childhood. Other than that, it makes too many cynical conclusions based on whatever it is the author was trying to get across-- which by the end, is still unclear. Reading the introduction one would assume that this book was poised to breathe new insight on Malcolm the political figure and man. However, what you end up getting is more of a repetitious editorial piece. The author almost insults the intelligence of the reader by constantly rehashing the possible reasoning for Malcolm's every move. At one point, he suggests that Attallah was favored by Malcolm because of her light skin (like his) the way his dark-skinned father had once favored him. Perry also volunteers the very real and most likely possibility that Malcolm took this particular daughter to different events because she was the oldest of the girls. This is just one example of how he insists on giving the reader something to ponder on Malcolm's sincerity as a Black leader, tangible or not. There are parts of this book that indeed ring true with me for what I have interperted Malcolm to be, but these instances are too few and far between. I was in no way expecting an idealized picture to be painted here, only this book offers no real balance. Beyond this wounded Malcolm he avidly portrays, what else was there? Also for the attention he gave to alleged homosexual activity, arson, etc. he mentioned Betty Shabazz sparsely as if she held no importance in Malcolm's life. I found that fact very telling. After supposedly over 400+ interviews, Perry could only gather enough to give the mother of Malcolm's six children passing mentions. I actually got more of a rounded glimpse of Malcolm the man in the biography of Betty Shabazz by Russell J. Rickford. I advise those who are thinking of reading this book first to check out the autobiography w/ Alex Haley instead, then tackle this one if you wish. Even for all its omissions and probable half truths, you'll come away from that book actually understanding something. After reading Mr. Perry's biography, you get the urge to so say, "So?! What was your point?"
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on July 8, 2001
You have to question what Perry wanted to achieve from this book. He seems to have missed, or overlooked, all of the important issues that Malcolm X stood for.
He takes the word of Malcolm's detractors as the gospel truth and diminishes Malcolm's teachings and beliefs by portraying them as paranoid.
Perry seems obsessed with highlighting flaws in Malcolm's personality and uses this device to side step the vital lessons which Malcolm was trying to teach - lesson's which still need to be learnt today.
By all means read this book, but do so very objectively.
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on June 4, 2001
I was not too fond of this book, not because I'm a Malcolm fan, but there are too many conclusions that Perry makes with weak evidence. Such as Malcolm's father (and Malcolm himself) setting their houses on fire, Malcolm's alleged homosexual activity, Malcolm asking the Klan why they allowed Dr. King to live, etc. etc. One could see why Dr. Betty Shabazz (Malcolm's wife)told Perry to get lost!
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on September 26, 2014
Why would someone who hates and despises Malcolm X to the core of his soul, spend such a large amount of time researching and writing such a hefty book about Malcolm? This is a question that baffles the mind. One way for Bruce Perry to attempt to mask his hatred towards Malcolm is to feign genuine interest in Malcolm by writing a biography about him. It seems to me that there is something twisted and not quite right about this, but this is one of the realities that seems to be going on within the production of Perry's book. This book feeds the hunger of Perry's hatred. Anyone who writes a biography should make an attempt to be objective and fair. Perry makes no such attempt. The intensity and comprehensiveness of Perry's hatred for Malcolm hints to this reader that there is some type of deep, dark, sinister, psychological issue at work within Perry when it comes to Malcolm, all aimed at promoting who knows what? What is Perry's issue? I could speculate, beginning with the same reasons that the mainstream media hated Malcolm during his lifetime, but that would only be speculation. It would take a psychological expert, one beyond my capability, to get at the true core of Perry's conniving hatred of Malcolm. Still, there is comfort in calling this conniving hatred for what it is. Nearly every fact that was revealed by Perry's research was spun into the book through Perry's lens, with all of the facts consistently given the most negative interpretation possible. As a complement to this review, I am suggesting that it would be wise to read a copy of Arnold Rampersad's essay titled "The Color Of His Eyes: Bruce Perry's Malcolm and Malcolm's Malcolm." The essay can be found on page 117 in Malcolm X : In Our Own Image, edited by Joe Wood.
On the flip side of the coin, the beauty of Malcolm X's body of work, his legacy, comes from the fact that the power of who he was, the power of his spirit, message and essence, is impenetrable to such shallow attempts as Perry's to defame him. Truth always wins out. Despite Perry's prodigious effort to discredit Malcolm, The Autobiography of Malcolm X will always be the defining narrative of Malcolm's life, a book judged by Time magazine as one of the top non-fiction books of the 20th century. Malcolm was too great of a figure to have someone try and insult his historical status by a recipe of non sequiturs and sophistry. Any objective search for the real Malcolm has a lot to choose from, with a handsome collection of legitimate books, albums, tapes, cd's, youtube videos and documentaries in existence. A true attempt to get at the real Malcolm should begin and end with his Autobiography, the longest and most comprehensive source of Malcolm revealing himself to the world. There is enough legitimate information in circulation about Malcolm to reward a diligent, reasoned, balanced, temperate search. I am giving Perry's book a rating of one star because I do not have the option of assigning negative stars to it. If I had that as an option, we would all have to blow off the dust from our early school understanding of the algebraic line and make our way to the left of zero.

PS--Chapter 4 in "Reality's Pen: Reflections On Family, History & Culture" by Thomas D. Rush is called "Inspiration." That chapter is really a moving dedication to Malcolm X. Anyone interested in Malcolm X will find that chapter worth one's while. In addition, there is much to be gained from the rest of the book. This book can be found right here on Amazon.
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on January 14, 2014
Plenary of conjecture, little in the way of informed and grounded facts. One has to ask what Bruce Perry's intentions were in writing this biography which at times seems to focus on the salacious and sensational at the expense of verifiable facts. The author seems to have a preconceived narrative in mind and wishes to obdurately foist this on the reader. The result is an unconvincing attempt and one which appears to me at least to be more tabloid than truth.
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on March 24, 2008
Unlike many of the other reviewers, I thought that Perry truly succeeded in this biography of Malcolm. I think that one must have read Malcolm's autobiography to appreciate this book; that said, I'm very glad to have read another source besides the Malcolm/Haley classic. This work does take a critical look into the life of Malcolm, and Perry does seem determined to cast doubt upon Malcolm X's own statements, but I don't think that this was to malign or to lessen Malcolm's credibility and accomplishments. Perry provides the reader with a well researched and backed viewpoint to allow for greater discussion and interpretation of Malcolm's thoughts. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has read Malcolm's autobiography, and who would like to learn more about it.
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on December 27, 2010
I understand why a reader might have an ambivalence about this book - at least one other Amazon reviewer commented on Perry's interjecting his own opinions into the mix. Perry does indeed freely share his own thoughts on why Malcolm does what he does, which initially reminded me of the unnecessary analysis of jazz writer James Lincoln Collier, which I found somewhat annoying and which contributed to my initally putting the book down.

Yet the second time I picked it up I had a fresh appreciation for it, and I can forgive what I initially saw as a flaw. This is partly because Perry does not beat you over the head with it, and because, perhaps more to the point, he did his homework and may well have come to know Malcolm better than anyone else, including Malcolm himself. Perry interviewed several hundred friends, relatives and others who were part of Malcolm's life from childhood on, and he's an excellent researcher who often cites several sources for a single comment. Thankfully, he is most definitely not the bookish biographer who simply lays out facts carefully culled from archival sources. He has done a remarkable job of wrapping his head around a highly intelligent, complex and contradictory subject, and while it's clear that he respects Malcolm highly, he's also clear-eyed and doesn't hesitate to straighten out inconsistencies or inaccuracies, either in what Malcolm says or in what others said about him.

The more I read it (and as I write this I'm not quite finished), the more I think Malcolm has been done deeply right by Perry. And how cool is this guy, that he puts a picture of Malcolm thumbing through a book on the very last page of the book, which thus becomes the first thing to greet you when you do the very same thing? Absolutely brilliant!
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on November 22, 2013
This was a well written, and well researched biography about Malcon X and it does not sugar coat his life.

The biographer did his research, wrote factual information about Malcom X, and wrote about Malcom X's life in a skillful manner.
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on June 20, 2010
This book is highly based on the authors opinions, instead of delivering hard core facts. While reading this book, I found myself questioning the author's intent. This book was written to diminish the image of Malcolm X, despite it being the first biography on him.

Skip this. Only Farrakhan could write something with more contempt.
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on May 21, 2005
This book was obviously written by someone who hates Malcolm X. He had nothing positive to say only negative. He even went so far as to make the reader feel as though everything that Malcolm ever said was a lie. He portrays Malcolm as a person who hated himself but I believe it is the writer of this book who hates Malcolm and his family.
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