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Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention Hardcover – April 4, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 209 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

 “Malcolm X is etched in the American imagination—and the American psyche—in the particular and unyielding terms of radical and militant… Marable brings a lifetime of study to this biography, which is the crowning achievement of a magnificent career.” — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

 “Manning Marable is the exemplary black scholar of radical democracy and black freedom in our time. His long-awaited magisterial book on Malcolm X is the definitive treatment of the greatest black radical voice and figure of the mid-twentieth century. Glory Hallelujah!” — Cornel West, Princeton University

 “Manning Marable’s Malcolm X is his magnum opus, a work of extraordinary rigor and intellectual beauty … This majestic and eloquent tour de force will stand for some time as the definitive work on as enigmatic and electrifying a leader as has ever sprung from American soil.”  — Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown University, author of April 4, 1968

 “It will be difficult for anyone to better this book... It is a work of art, a feast that combines genres skillfully: biography, true-crime, political commentary. It gives us Malcolm X in full gallop, a man who died for his belief in freedom.”  — The Washington Post

 “In his revealing and prodigiously researched new biography. . . Mr. Marable artfully strips away the layers and layers of myth that have been lacquered onto his subject’s life — first by Malcolm himself in that famous memoir, and later by both supporters and opponents after his assassination.” — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

 “Unlike Bruce Perry’s 1991 biography, Malcolm, which entertained the most outlandish stories in an attempt to present a comprehensive portrait, Marable’s biography judiciously sifts fact from myth.”  — The Atlantic

 “Magisterial…Marable’s biography is an exceedingly brave as well as a major intellectual accomplishment.”  — Boston Globe

 “Marable has crafted an extraordinary portrait of a man and his time…A masterpiece.” — San Francisco Chronicle

 “This book is a must read.” — Ebony

 “Thankfully, we have Manning Marable's new biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention — which is, simply put, a stunning achievement — to help us better understand Malcolm’s complex life.”  — The Philadelphia Tribune

 “The book also has much to recommend it for its history of orthodox Islam, the perspective it offers on the black political movements of the 1950s and 1960s that changed America, and its insights into the development and inner workings of the Nation of Islam.” — The Financial Times

 “Manning Marable’s scholarship was as provocative and profound as it was prodigious.”  — Newsday

 “[Marable] devoted his magnificent career—more than most scholars do—to living what he wrote and what he thought. His commitment not only to equality of opportunity but also to the exposure of falsehood and hypocrisy was a hallmark of his pathbreaking work.”  — The Chronicle of Higher Education

 “Marable accomplishes the difficult task of showing the bad boy of the civil rights era as an actual human being . . . Each page almost secretes the formidable research into hard facts. Marable lets the chips fall where they may because he is interested in the humanity of Malcolm X, as all true scholars should be.”  — New York Daily News

 “This is history at its finest—written with passion and attention and drive. It is a fitting testament to the lives and the legacies of both subject and author.” — TheBarnesandNobleReview.com

 “Marable’s definitive biography is now the standard by which scholars can evaluate, not just what Malcolm X said, but what generations of others have said about him.” — The National

  “This book is not the only representation of Manning's brilliance… it is a culmination of a lifetime of scholarship and activism, a larger project devoted to telling the stories of a people engaged in an epic, painful and beautiful struggle for freedom.” — BlackVoices.com

 “This superbly perceptive and resolutely honest book will long endure as a definitive treatment of Malcolm’s life, if not of the actors complicit in his death.” — The Wilson Quarterly

 “The book is cause for celebration . . . The book is full of revelations, big and small, and amounts to a full-on reconsideration of Malcolm’s life and death.”  — VeryShortList.com

  “As Malcolm lived on through his best-selling autobiography, so will Marable, through his unmatched body of writing, his educational contributions, his illuminations on Malcolm X's legacy and his devoted students.”  — CNN.Com

 “Manning was an unflinching and breathtakingly prolific scholar whose commitments to racial, economic, gender, and international justice were unparalleled . . . That we will have his long-anticipated, great and final work even as he leaves us is so classically, tragically appropriate.”  — The Nation

 “While Marable himself is irreplaceable, he has provided a foundation for future generations and will continue to shape our understanding of social change and justice.”  — TheRoot.com

 “A prolific scholar.”  — The Columbia Record

About the Author

Manning Marable, Professor of History and director of the Institute for African-American Studies at Columbia University, has written features in the New York Times and the Nation. His books include Race, Reform, and Rebellion; Beyond Black and White; and Speaking Truth to Power. His public affairs commentary series, "Along the Color Line," is featured in more than 275 newspapers and is broadcast by eighty radio stations in the U.S. and internationally.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (April 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022205
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 7.2 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (209 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whether you're just getting to know this giant and enigmatic figure of the civil rights "movement" - or in Malcolm's case revolution - or you were on the street in the day, Manning Marable's biography is worth your valuable time. In addition to being a wide and deep examination of how Malcolm Little became Malcolm X and how Malcom X became a universal advocate for the oppressed, especially of African heritage, Marable fills in gaps with his singular access to records and sources, as well as his sustained effort over a decade in producing this biography. But, perhaps most importantly, the voice that Malcolm X raised in defense of those being oppressed carries a message especially important in our time. We should listen.

Marable examines Malcolm's life from many angles, in many contexts, which are necessary given that he manifested himself in appearances that ranged from hustler and angry voice from the ghetto to social activist and pragmatist willing to work within the American "system." And this broad appeal largely defines Malcolm X's appeal according to Marable: "Malcolm's journey of reinvention was in many ways centered on his lifelong quest to discern the meaning and substance of faith. As a prisoner, he embraced an antiwhite quasi-Islamic sect that nevertheless validated his fragmented sense of humanity and ethnic identity. But as he traveled across the world...Malcolm came to adopt true Islam's universalism, and its belief that all could find Allah's grace regardless of race." (p.12)

To black audiences, "what made him truly original was that he presented himself as the embodiment of the two central figures of African-American folk culture, simultaneously the hustler/trickster and the preacher/minister...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have to preface this review with a little information about my own background. At one time my parents were members of the Nation of Islam. Their active involvement with the Nation had ceased by the time I was four or so, which was also around the time that my parents separated, so I have very little memory of any direct experience with the Nation's activities. Nevertheless, the Nation's teachings affected my life in subtle and profound ways. Although I didn't understand it at the time, my father's involvement with the Nation was one of several factors that contributed to the deep tension between him and my grandmother, who is a staunch Baptist. Oftentimes, perhaps most of the time, that tension was palpable, as my grandmother lived with me and my father for a good portion of my childhood, and was deeply involved in my upbringing. His experience with the Nation also fueled his deep inner turmoil to a great extent, although I didn't understand that at the time either. It wasn't until I got older and began to study the history of the Nation of Islam that my father's paranoid ramblings about FBI bugs in our house and recordings of my mother's voice being played on television, which completely mystified me as child, were put into context. That history also helped me to make sense of the divergence between my mother's and my own views on race when I was an adolescent. Studying that history helped me to make sense of my upbringing and my place in a world in which I often felt, and at times still do feel, alienated and displaced. So naturally, as I grew up, I eagerly devoured whatever I was able to understand about the Nation. And most of what I learned was and is centered in the figure of Malcolm X. When Spike Lee's "X" was first released, I think I saw it at least three times in one week.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Manning Marable's book, Malcolm X, A Life of Reinvention, is an informative if unexciting read that adds important details to the story of the still-fascinating African-American revolutionary. Having read the famous Autobiography several times, I was still unaware, for example, at how much Malcolm travelled overseas, as well as his impact on foreign audiences. (Unfortunately, Mr. Marable's book plods exasperatingly in those chapters, as he includes far too much trivia. If you must know when Malcolm had a sandwich in Sussex or met 3 students at a Liberian airport, Marable has those details.) Information about Malcolm's rocky relationship with his powerful sister Ella, his troubled marriage and further details about the split with the Nation of Islam illuminate both the private and public figure. And the information about previous back to Africa groups is fascinating, as are the sections on Marcus Garvey and the formative days of the Nation of Islam. Marable is also insightful--if scathing, writing about Malcolm's co-author, Alex Haley. Marable's portrayal of Haley is a brutal picture of the free lancer as a sycophantic hustler.
Where Marable's runs into trouble is in his constant editorializing (he takes every opportunity to show exactly how much he disapproves of his subject's politics) and with some rather questionable lapses in logic and fact-gathering. I, for one, would have liked more information about the formation of the Nation of Islam's religious enforcement squads, the funding for Malcolm's foreign trips after the split with the NOI and what Marable was able to glean from police and government surveillance files. Marable makes some strong charges against those he feels were involved in the assassination and the charges are not always backed up with factual detail.
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