- Hardcover: 102 pages
- Publisher: Hill & Wang (14 Nov. 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0809095041
- ISBN-13: 978-0809095049
- Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.6 x 22 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 791,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography Hardcover – 14 Nov 2006
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The age of multitasking needs better narrative history. It must be absolutely factual, immediately accessible, smart, and brilliantly fun. Enter Andrew Helfer, the award-winning graphic-novel editor behind "Road""to Perdition "and "The History of Violence," and welcome the launch of a unique line of graphic biographies. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these graphic biographies qualify as tomes. But if you're among the millions who haven't time for another doorstop of a biography, these books are for you. With the thoroughly researched and passionately drawn "Malcolm X," Helfer and award-winning artist Randy DuBurke capture Malcolm Little's extraordinary transformation from a black youth beaten down by Jim Crow America into Malcolm X, the charismatic, controversial, and doomed national spokesman for the Nation of Islam.
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The novel lays the context for the story with swift, deft strokes that show the experience of blacks in America's history, from slavery to Jim Crow. The story shifts to tell of X's parents, and covers his childhood, young adulthood as a petty criminal, eventual jailing and conversion to Islam, his hajj and his assassination.
There's a lot to learn about X in this book, much of which was (with attribution) taken from his autobiography. Without saying it in so many words, the books reports inconsistencies in stories he told about himself and the recollections of others. His mother claims not to recall the story of facing down racists while pregnant with X.. The book is also honest about his criminality (as was X himself) and his association with the Boston and Harlem drug and club scenes, including experiences with conking his hair and his dalliances with white women. X's jailing gives the book an opportunity to explain X's attraction to the Nation of Islam, and explains NOI's distinction (due to its myth of white devilry) from other branches of Islam. Malcolm comes across as an intense man of great persuasiveness and integrity, whose incredulity at the sins of NOI's leader, Elijah Mohammed, are laid as the cause of his murder.
This is a quite honest book that lays out the facts and lets the reader decide what to make of them. Was X an effective leader? What is his legacy? What if he had chosen not to challenge the NOI's cult of its leader? The sense of "what might have been" hangs heavily over the book.
The book is drawn in stark black and white, fitting for a man who experienced the world that way and for the basic racial clash of his time. The book's timeline slows down dramatically toward the end, which covers the lead-up to X's violent death. The sense of impending doom, paranoia and creeping dread are expertly conveyed.
It's hard to pin which age group would be most appropriate for the book. There is no graphic sexuality, though marital infidelity and prostitution are discussed. Drug use is discussed, but not glorified. Definitely a book for high-schoolers, with some mature middle-schoolers thrown in.
"Malcolm X" admires its subject without flattering or praising him beyond what his own admirers said about him -- or by whitewashing the less savory elements of his life. X was many things, but in the end, a man, like King, whose religion afforded him a vision of a world in which the presence of racial hatred did not have to be taken for granted.
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