Review: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Manning's detailed biography of Malcolm X is a must-read for anyone looking to understand the depths of Malcolm X during life and afterward. Manning moves in chunks from years to months to days depending upon the research available and draws upon various records, personal accounts, and materials that have been made available some 40 years after Malcolm X's murder. The thorough detail is complemented by a nuanced and mindful prose that continually provides a clear sense of what's going on in the world, in Malcolm's life, and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. Manning's most striking contribution is how he highlights the complex demands and obstacles in Malcolm's life and how he captures Malcolm's evolving and changing attitudes based upon the different experiences from his rising leadership and falling out with the Nation of Islam, to the rewarding and troubling relationships in his personal life to his increasing pursuit of a larger international movement of liberation that is intertwined with is increasing Muslim faith, and how his ideas though often disregard became central tenants of different aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. One other aspect of this book stands out and that is how it serves as a counter-balance to The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It acts as a publishing history and reasonable corrective to that text which was co-produced between Malcolm X and Alex Haley; published after Malcolm's murder with material that may have been included were Malcolm alive for the publication. This aspect of the book is essential as it highlights among other things Malcolm's own awareness of his shifting narrative and how the autobiography shaped (and at times, misshaped) how generations later would understand or view Malcolm X.

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