4 1/2 stars.
I saw this book sitting on a shelf at the library, and having a pitifully small amount of knowledge regarding Malcolm X, I decided to check it out. When I was about 80 pages in, Peter asked me to read it aloud to him. Luckily, it was interesting enough that this was not a problem.
I asked Peter what he knew about Malcolm X, and he said that he, too, knew basically nothing--"He said 'We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.'" He said he'd tried to read the Autobiography but found it to be a struggle (later, all the quoted Alex Haley correspondence drove him crazy, it was pretty funny--apparently Peter is just not a fan of the man's linguistic style).
Anyway, this book had a lot to offer. We watched/listened to lots of Malcolm X speeches, debates, interviews, etc while we read the book and it was a good combo--especially because Marable gives a lot of detail to the who, what & when of Malcolm's life--associates, dates traveled here, letters sent when, etc., and doesn't go into super detail about his politics. I mean, you can't really talk about Malcolm's life without addressing his politics, but Marable only used actual quotations and excerpts from his speeches sparingly. That's what got us started on the clip-watching--I was wondering, what is the actual content and delivery of these sermons, debates, etc? Well now I know. And now I kind of love Malcolm ("kind of" because of his sexism; I've been Googling about it and learning more about Malcolm as regards that area, but the jury's still out as of today). I got kind of angry that my school didn't cover him in history class. All we got was MLK. And, I mean, I respect very much what he was trying to do, but his speeches never really moved me or spoke to me. But when Malcolm talks? !!!! I felt so much more drawn to what he was saying, I perk up and I agreed wholeheartedly with almost every sentence out of his mouth. When reporters/moderators/interviewers would give him guff and/or say something ignorant I would have to stop reading or pause the video to yell at them.
After watching videos and reading about him, I am really upset by how the FBI, CIA, and police organizations considered him "bad" enough to wiretap, surveil endlessly, plan & execute disruptions in his life. I guess it just goes to show how strong the white power structure in this country is that they can't even take a smidgen of well-reasoned criticism without declaring it a threat to national security. How fucking shameful.
This guy had about 100 pages of notes & index in the back of this book too. Which was awesome. But! I heard that he still left out sources for some things, which goes to show that you can never be too good at citing your sources.
The book loses half a star not because of anything that's in it, but rather what's left out. The author will speculate on various things for a sentence or two and leave them; but I found myself wanting more information and wanting to entertain speculation from all angles. I guess that's not really the purpose of the book and I'll have to find a different one for that but it did leave me mildly disappointed. I was just like, in some places it is a little TOO detailed, what dates Malcolm travelled where and to whom he was corresponding with, and then a little paragraph-long bio of that person. (Meanwhile, I enjoyed the details re: things like Malcolm wearing long underwear, Ruby Dee wanting to hide Malcolm in her & Ossie Davis's walls, etc.) But nothing to feed my conspiracy-minded head with??? Whyyy!