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4.5 out of 5 stars
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
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on 14 May 2017
Fascinating insight into Malcolm, unafraid to be critical and puts his life and work into the context of the ongoing struggle for equal rights for black Americans as well as international events.
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on 13 July 2017
Bought as a gift, they enjoyed it
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on 17 October 2014
I was disappointed with this book and left wondering what Manning Marable's agenda was. It is filled with speculation and guesswork that could be seen to be irresponsible. If you've read a fair amount about Malcolm X before, you are free to make up your own mind as to the accuracy of this book's content, but if not, I'm not sure it gives a fair account. Since reading this book, I have also read 'A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable's Malcolm X' - a compilation of essays offering a different interpretation. It's worth keeping in mind that for many, this is not the definitive account of Malcolm X that it has been advertised as.
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on 15 June 2017
I can't believe I hadn't reviewed this book when I first bought it years ago. This is a very late review. I remember reading this book thanking the author for tiny details that I found helpful in fixing my image as to whom Malcolm X was. I am an ardent fan and love Malcolm X. Any bits and bobs of information on him is always invaluable. I really did find the narrative interesting but I wouldn't class it as a magnum opus. It isn't the definitive biography of Malcolm X. There are a number of books I would recommend instead, namely 'The death and life of Malcolm X,' by Goldman (a White author... which is interesting, considering the racial context, ) and 'A religious life of Malcolm X.' There are a host more others which I can't remember off the top of my head. OK, but why the 2 stars? Simply because I felt there was some agenda in maligning Malcolm X, which I didn't expect from the late author. Though I benefitted in gaining benefit from this book, I believe those less informed on Malcolm X may take away two unsubstantiated allegations in this book and form an untrue image of the saint. Yes, I do believe he was a saint and free from such allegations that Manning attributes to him. Those being mentioned are infidelity and homosexuality both which are fabricated events trying to 'humanise' an already very human character into our modern construct. I would go for another biography. Goldmans' is brilliant or if you haven't already, then read The Autobiography.
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on 4 September 2014
I was riveted to this book. The subject was a strange brew,the cover up prior to and following his demise was the stuff of nightmares, reeking of corruption and conspiracy.......
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 September 2016
Many boomers view Haley's Autobiography of Malcolm X as a seminal step in their journey to understanding the realities of life in the US - it certainly changed my life. For years, I have been hoping to find a bio that would confirm what was right about Haley's account, critique it where necessary, and add context from the vantage of the nearly 50 years since it was published. This is exactly what Marable set out to do and, in spite of some things I find debatable, I think it is a complete success. Of all the delights one can find in a great book, in this one I felt I was in a personal dialogue with a brilliant researcher and writer.

Malcolm's early life was difficult, from a childhood of tragic losses and passing from con to pimp, criminal and addict, then straight into prison. While Marable confirms that much of this is true, he proves that Malcolm often exaggerated for the sake of building a compelling narrative for his career trajectory. He wasn't a major criminal, but he did rob some houses and was careless and stupid enough to get caught. Of the interesting things I learned on his early background was the political activism of his father as a follower of Marcus Garvey, an early black nationalist who argued for separatism and even negotiated with the Klan, whom he saw are "more honest" than Northern whites in their true intensions. One of the more questionable claims that Marable advances is that Malcolm also served briefly as a homosexual prostitute to a rich white benefactor, who later helped him get parole; Marable doesn't prove this with direct evidence yet references it throughout the book as fact. (Malcolm's marital problems were also new to me. Though glossed over in the Autobiography as a story of true love, Malcolm and Betty were in reality ill matched in the myriad ways that a marriage can go very, very wrong.)

Marable next covers Malcolm's prison conversion and initiation into Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam, which he portrays as a fundamentalist cult with a "bizarre theology". This too I think is accurate: they were radical separatists who sought to set up their own nation (never specified as to where), viewed Caucasians as literal spawns of the devil in Yakub's history, whereby an evil scientist created white men on a Mediterranean island in 8400 BCE. They also had a paramilitary force that enforced their ideology by violence, predominantly against its own members. A big part of the story is Malcolm's realization, as stimulated by his international travel experiences, that this was in fact heretical to orthodox Sunni Islam, which he discovered is universalist and welcoming of all races.

The most interesting and important section for me was on Malcolm's rise to Elijah Muhammed's chief lieutenant and their subsequent estrangement. Not only was Malcolm instrumental into turning the Nation of Islam into a major force during the 1950s, but their relationship developed serious tensions that ultimately led to his murder. I had assumed the rivalry was one of power, but Marable makes the case that it was essentially political in nature. While Elijah Muhammed's theology was inwardly oriented in an almost myopic manner, Malcolm was overty political, seeking ties with other groups and faiths, venturing into controversies about race, religion, and decolonization. Though it may have been in the Autobiography (and passed over me due to my own ignorance at the time of reading), I had no idea that Malcolm related well to communists, including Che, the non-aligned movement, and was highly critical of capitalism - he represented an integral part of the intellectual currents of the time. Elijah Muhammed wanted none of this. While he was angry that Malcolm challenged him on his bevy of illegitimate children, this was only the last straw in a much more fundamental ideological conflict.

Finally, Marable is very good on Malcolm's legacy. Rather than the integrationist that many imply he was becoming, Marable argues that he was the seed of the black pride movement - more inclusive to be sure, but solidly in the column of the angry, active critic of mainstream white America who would forever stand apart. His charisma and intellect rightly placed him at the center of the black consciousness movement, the persistent opposite of the integrationists and their hopes of making race irrelevant. While I feel uncertain that one can argue this as forcefully as Marable does - if only because Malcolm was assassinated as his views were in a kind of volatile flux - I see his point. His death at 39 was a loss to us all, his true potential will never be known.

I found several elements of the book rather dry. There is too much about Malcolm's organizations and associations, which much be covered but not in such detail, at least for me. Furthermore, there is an awful lot about the assassination and its botched investigation, none of which can be definitive. That being said, this is a wonderful reading experience, more or less riveting the whole way. This book is clearly a labor of love based on many newly available sources, making it a must read. Warmly recommended.
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on 9 November 2016
Malcolm X was a complex and extraordinary man. This book is heavy with information and detail about the evolution of this man that I couldn't absorb it without pausing. If you have read other books then this one could fill out facts that you were wondering about. A very good book indeed.
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on 19 June 2015
One of the best books I've ever read. Absolutely amazing!
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on 14 October 2012
Last year I got the hardback version from America. This book about Malcolm is challenging, different and asks a lot of questions about his life. It has got me to re-read the many books I have about Malcolm and comes to a different understanding. This is a book worth reading and i recommend its purchase
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on 20 September 2015
Manning Marble has written a fascinating book which is a comprehensive review of Malcolm X's life. Upon reading this book i had studied Malcolm X and the civil rights campaign in school. Yet it was only a brief overview an i didn't get the chance to explore Malik El Shabazz's life. As a result this book became a a tol which i could use to learn about Malcolm. Gripping, fascinating and never ending twists and turns Marble offers detailed explanation of why Malcolm X was forced into a life of crime, how he became aquatinted with the Nation of Islam and his late split with the Nation.

However a book review would not be a adequate 'review' without mentioning the faults of Marbles work. Firstly their is an enormous amount of speculation throughout the is book. For instance Marble describes Farrakhan as having a role to play in Malcolm's life yet the evidence he offers is insufficient. In addition their is speculation regarding malcolm X's love life claiming that while on his second trip to he middle East he engaged in extramarital sex, as he failed to write anything in his diary entry that night. This speculation leads the reader in circles and leaves them with no definitive knowledge regarding Malcolm's life.

Secondly, the book at times can feel like you a reading a long paged essay instead of something gripping. For example their is information regarding Malcolm trip to the Middle East and his private life which is unnecessary. I defiantly feel that Manning could have summarised Malcolm X using less long winded paragraphs and more short detailed analysis.

Nevertheless Manning is able to derive the story of a true leader who realised that black nationalism along with black economic empowerment would not only save the negro in America but millions around the globe. Malcolm truly was ahead of his time and understood the importance for black people to understand the politics that govern their community (Ballot or the Bullet speech 1964) as well as to independantly control the education that they are taught in schools. If your looking to learn about Malcolm X's book i would suggest you read this book, however do aim to examine external sources i.e his speeches on Youtube to learn more about the man himself..... MR MALCOLM X!
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