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The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley Paperback – October 12, 1987
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Malcolm X's searing memoir belongs on the small shelf of great autobiographies. The reasons are many: the blistering honesty with which he recounts his transformation from a bitter, self-destructive petty criminal into an articulate political activist, the continued relevance of his militant analysis of white racism, and his emphasis on self-respect and self-help for African Americans. And there's the vividness with which he depicts black popular culture--try as he might to criticize those lindy hops at Boston's Roseland dance hall from the perspective of his Muslim faith, he can't help but make them sound pretty wonderful. These are but a few examples. The Autobiography of Malcolm X limns an archetypal journey from ignorance and despair to knowledge and spiritual awakening. When Malcolm tells coauthor Alex Haley, "People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book," he voices the central belief underpinning every attempt to set down a personal story as an example for others. Although many believe his ethic was directly opposed to Martin Luther King Jr.'s during the civil rights struggle of the '60s, the two were not so different. Malcolm may have displayed a most un-Christian distaste for loving his enemies, but he understood with King that love of God and love of self are the necessary first steps on the road to freedom. --Wendy Smith
“Malcolm X’s autobiography seemed to offer something different. His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me; the blunt poetry of his words, his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising order, martial in its discipline, forged through sheer force of will.”—Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father
“Extraordinary . . . a brilliant, painful, important book.”—The New York Times
“A great book . . . Its dead level honesty, its passion, its exalted purpose, will make it stand as a monument to the most painful truth.”—The Nation
“The most important book I’ll ever read, it changed the way I thought, it changed the way I acted. It has given me courage I didn’t know I had inside me. I’m one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were changed for the better.”—Spike Lee
“This book will have a permanent place in the literature of the Afro-American struggle.”—I. F. Stone
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X finds Fake Islam in prison, finds purpose in life, then spends countless hours trying to convince other black men that the only solution to their problems is believing that everyone from Plato to Jesus was a brother, and that an entire "we wuz kangz" history of civilizational glory has been hidden from them. Late in life, before he's killed by--wait for it--black guys, he travels to Mecca where he gets the VIP treatment and becomes convinced that "Orthodox Islam" is the correct path.
At no point does he realize that Islam condones slavery, nor does he reveal the slightest knowledge of the Koran, or Middle Eastern history, or anything beyond "Whitey wronged me." Hardly empowering stuff.
The truly amazing bit is that despite the Civil Rights movement, and Affirmative Action, and Obama's presidency, X's arguments are being repeated verbatim to this very day by racial activists eager to cash in on White Guilt. It's hardly clever stuff, but it's effective.