54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2005
In this uncompromising and surging autobiography, Malcolm X, one of the most fascinating and charismatic African Americans of the twentieth century, tells the story of his tumultuous life. He recounts how, from his horrific childhood through to his numerous robberies that eventually landed him in jail, he found solace in Islam which led him to become the prominent speaker of one of the most controversial groups of its time - The Black Muslims.
I read this along with Martin Luther King's autobiography (which everybody should do if they want to get a true understanding of the two conflicting black philosophies of the time), and while I was more in agreement with King's method and message, I found Malcolm X a much more interesting and charismatic personality, and his autobiography more enjoyable. What makes him even more interesting is the way his views altered toward the end of his life and leaned more toward King's.
The book is an easy read and the pages seem to fly by. The book finishes just a few months before his assassination, so unlike most autobiographies, Malcolm X's continues right up until the end of his life.
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2001
I read this book shortly after coming out of that teenage phase of 'jungle mentality' where only the fiitest and most ruthless survive. This book should be an integral part of schooling in this millenium as it tells of the rise, heavy fall and rise again of a black child born into prejudiced society, taking a common way out and then recieving the wake up call. It tells of how anyone, if they apply themselves, can achieve their goals and a thorough insight into the interactions between different races and religions which can breed war and peace. It tells of a man that became a strong believer and rigidly exhalted those principles. Malcolm X gave ME a belief that I can study and achieve and STILL keep a strong sense of racial pride. I first read this 11 years ago and I'm now reading it again for the eighth time...
Do not pass go, do not collect £200, just go directly to the store and buy this book now...
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2000
...The Autobiography of Malcolm X captured my attention and interest right away from the first page and held tight throughout the remainder. The depiction of the Klansmen at the beginning of chapter one started the book off on a serious note that laid the foundation for Malcolm's life. Being a teenager, the first handful of chapters was understandably the most entertaining to read. From them, I drew out the learning processes, the experiences, and the obstacles that Malcolm inevitably had to overcome in his transition from childhood to early adulthood. I then stocked them deep within to facilitate my own maturity process. From these chapters, I acquired a greater understanding of the Afro-American way of life and a better-informed picture of American society from a teenager's perspective. These chapters engendered excitement, suspense, and a great deal of reality and truth in Malcolm's encounters with guns, drugs, and prostitution. They were presented in a very straightforward way, and were not marred with many unbelievable ridiculous exaggerations. Every word was to be believed, every word could have been believed, and everything should have been believed.
The book's primary motif of race relations cast its shadow upon every paragraph, and gradually became more involved in Malcolm's life as he proceeded into adulthood. In the middle portion of the book, Malcolm took a dramatic fall as he dropped to the lowest state of society in prison. Faced with a fork in the road, Malcolm strived for the best as he painfully resumed his education. The middle chapters were the most inspiring to read for me as a student. I certainly could relate to the processes of learning how to read and write, but never the way Malcolm went about accomplishing them. Simply put, he did it the hard way. Starting with the first page of a dictionary and blindly copying, Malcolm regained the properties of letters and words. His better-educated vocabulary led to the comprehension of ideas through words. Then books were read to facilitate the process. This snowball effect opened Malcolm's mind and understanding to the real race issue. Through this newly gained knowledge, he finally was able to understand why different people acted the way they did as well as how they went about doing so.
The last portion of the book was to me the most educational. I was for the first time introduced to Islam, a religion I was not familiar with. I also learned that with fame came sacrifices, the loss of a private life, and great jealousy. I truly believed Malcolm when he said that he believed in The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the spiritual leader of The Nation of Islam, more than he believed in himself. From that point on, the world was now seen and described through the eyes of a mature adult. I read with bewilderment as Malcolm depicted his every step in building up the Nation of Islam into a life saving organization for the Black masses in American. I shared his joy when he made the pilgrimage to Mecca and made acquaintances with world leaders and people of importance. I believed he made the best judgment of his life when he reshaped his beliefs in racial status and racial discrimination. As I neared the end of Malcolm's life, he was in the unimaginable position of facing his inevitable violent death. Great fame coupled by his celebrity status had caused tremendous hate and jealousy in the organization. The last couple of chapters really taught me something about human nature. Imagine going to sleep at night while knowing the names of the assailants hired to kill you! Furthermore, imagine if they were the same faithful students you preached to get them back on their feet in society! It was almost inconceivable. Malcolm nevertheless spent his numbered days preaching and speaking to the Afro-American population, and spreading Black pride to every corner of the world. He was brutally murdered February 21, 1965 at three o'clock in the afternoon while making his last speech in New York, with his family present. As a reader I was downhearted, but at the same time relieved that he died fighting for his people and their human rights.
I feel this has been the single most influential literary piece of work I have ever encountered. I never could have guessed that this random pick for a summer reading assignment could influence me so much, and ultimately change the way I perceive.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2003
I began reading this book with what I thought was an open mind. By the time I had finished it I relised that this book had truely opened my mind. During the first chapter of the book Malcolm X comments that it is amazing that a good book can change your life. When I read this line I understood the vocabulary but did'nt really understand this concept until I had finished the book, as I believe that this book has changed my views and beliefs so much, and opened my mind to such a degree, that it will be directly responsible for influencing many decisions that I will make throughout the rest of my life.
This book will appeal to many different people and I would recommend that anyone, who can access a copy, should read it. The book begins with an account by the author of the last days of Malcolm X's existance, during which he put this book together with author. The book then tells the story of Malcolm's youth, growing up in a shockingly and disgracefully racist America. The young man, whom excelled academically and aimed for a prosperous career and future, was racially abused and grossly discouraged by white members of the community. The book continues, following Malcolm into the ghettos of Detroit and then Harlem, in which a life of crime appeared to be Malcolms destiny. Next comes the jail term, during which Malcolm made the discovery of religion and a developed a thirst for knowledge, both of which whould contribute to a massive change in direction for the young Afro-American. Upon his release from prison, the book follows Malcolms facinating journey as he dedicates his life to spreading the message he has recieved.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2008
The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
I truly believe that Malcolm X was the only person who has walked the earth, who could have changed the world, and would have wanted to change it - based purely on the desire to see all people be treated equally (with fairness, equal opportunity, and without random or inherited hatred for other races).
Malcolm's autobiography tells of many different stages he went through, and how many different lives he lived; from gifted child, to enthusiastic teen, to working with drug dealers, thieves and prostitutes, being a drug addict in prison, finding religion, becoming a preacher, a leader, then finding jealous people on all sides.
The book, the story is flawlessly put together, never-ever boring, thrilling, joyful, heart breaking, inspiring.
Malcolm lived and died for truth and honesty, he took on- not only the whole of America but also the rest of the world.
Malcolm had the mind to solve any problem, and the heart to never stop, even with death threats and various assasination attempts.
"X in Mathematics represents the unknown, until I know the name of my forefathers, my family name, and not the name of my former slave master, I will carry the name "X".
Beautiful person, and a REAL man.
All he had to do to live, was to be quiet and become as evil, corrupt and greedy as all the people around him, but he'd rather die than become them.
And sadly, tragically he did.
Malcolm's autobiography is of huge historic, political and human importance.
It's my favourite book, and I respect Malcolm X as much as anyone in the history of earth.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2000
This book is very difficult to put down, and is thoroughly engrossing for people of every race. In it, we read the what really built Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik el Shabazz) and what lead him to eventually reject black supremacy and embrace Orthodox Islam and preach equality of all races. There is a very powerful account of his journey to Mecca on the Hajj and how it changed his view of races and gave him the belief that all races could live together as equals. It contains a very poignant insight into the lives of Black Americans and the social problems they faced and face in 20th century America and the background to the 'Nation of Islam' movement, which Malcolm X left and the Orthodox Islam that he embraced. There is an introduction by Alex Haley detailing the event of Malcolm X's assassination. All in all a very motivating read.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2002
I read this book out of sheer curiosity and really enjoyed it... although I didn't always agree with his views, he was obviously a very intelligent and passionate man. Infact his story is a real rise and fall account. The latter stages of a book are written by a man who knew he was going to be die by the hands of people he had onced loved, but stood by his convictions until the end.
Love him or hate him, in some way or another you have to respect him.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2002
I can't believe that i can not see floods of reviews on this revolutionary, mind blowing autobiography of Malcom X. I read this book when i was 19, i'm 23 now, no other book has made an impact on me like this one. It opened my mind to many questions, taught me not to always swollow what is dished(in terms of KNOWLEDGE) the most important part of the book for me was his metamorphisis, from a black separtist to humanitarian hero. i love this book
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2009
This is a fantastic book charting the life of one the twentieth century's most inspirational men. Forced by a racist society to stifle his inherent intelligence, the young Malcolm Little turns instead to a life of vice and crime. In vivid detail, we are taken through the highs and lows of that life: the drug-dealing, pimping, gambling, hustling and violence to mention only some. Sentenced to a stretch in prison, he discovers the power of books and the knowledge which reading can bring, spending many nights acquiring a self-education - poring over texts by a crack of light through his cell door. Converted to the radical racial cult the Nation of Islam, Maloclm X's passion and sincerity - as well as his charisma and eloquence - soon win him pride of place in the organisation and he finds himself one of its key spokespeople. He spends the next few years unequivocally and fearlessly speaking the truth as he sees it, making the "white man" squirm as he uses his greatest weapon - his tongue - across various public medium to defend the rights and basic humanity of his "black brethren". But the ultra-racist ideology of the Nation cannot satisfy Malcolm's incisive intelligence and it fails to square up to the reality he experiences. In a beautiful finale, Malcolm - whilst facing a spiritual crisis - comes full circle during his Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca which proves to be another metamorphosis for this spiritual butterfly. In a very poignant chapter, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabbaz, as he henceforth becomes known, discovers the egalitarian ethos of mainstream Islam and learns to live with the "white man" as his brother, completely transforming his world-view. Yet true to form, he refuses to baulk or hold back on speaking the truth as he sees it, knowing full well that his old comrades at the Nation will hunt him down to the death. And so it was, on 21 February 1965, this great man met his end at the hands of those he helped bring forth from the dust.
Inspirational lessons, amazing courage, a great story fantastically well-told (this is technically not an autobiography as it was dictated to Alex Haley who did a great job writing up the notes as a flowing, riveting text), and detailed history of the mid-century American black civil rights struggle, this is one book really not worth missing. It will open your eyes in more ways than one - I can pretty much vouch for that!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Would that there was something like this on every prominent public historical figure because this has been one of the most enjoyable reads I've ever encountered. There is a brilliant introduction before Malcolm X's account begins but the account itself is what will captivate any reader, the pace and style are as near perfect as I have ever encountered and the book is a real page turner.
In a way it transcends the political message of the author but at once is totally infused by it, X is unflinching, his sense of grievance and preparedness to meet the challenge of being wronged are totally explicit. It would be a very reductive reading of Malcolm X's life to see it as comprising nothing but racial struggles, perhaps if he had not been as able a communicator or as honest in his account, the honesty as shocking, he does not scandalise himself but there is not the sort of reinvention or dramatisation I've come to expect from the autobiographies of public persons.
This is not just the account of a black civil rights activist but that of a child who has grown up in the shadow of his father's murder, an isolated family life thereafter, threatened and then broken rather than supported by the intervention of childcare authorities (these passages are copiously quoted in In the Best Interests of the Child: Professional Boundaries a book addressing professional interventions by childrens services) and as such provides an account of an individual's account of the childrens services in the US at the time. There is also an account of "delinquency and drift", as X becomes a hoodlum, before becoming radicalised in incarceration. The differences and gulf opening up between Malcolm X and the black muslims he had been an early spokensperson for are addressed in the course of the text, emerging from his pilgrimage to Mecca in which he found an unanticipated diversity among the pilgrims there.
Malcolm X is unquestionably a leading character in the black civil rights struggles of yesterday, however what emerges from the book is a life story of someone whose life was amounted to more than what he would be remembered for and who, I suspect, was about to embark upon a second formative phase of his life before he was killed. Who knows what this would have brought but it is clear from passages within the book that it would have proven challenging to many of those who currently consider race and politics. His shunning of victimhood, excuses, blame games and abdictation of responsibility in any shape or form is as clear as his consideration that any individual, irrespective of whether they are white or black, had a right to defend themselves, even with force of arms, against being brutalised by anyone.