Book Review of the Autobiography of Malcolm X

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The Autobiography of Malcolm X was written during the middle 1960’s but covers a span of about 35 years. The story of Malcolm's life is set against a historical backdrop which takes us from the roaring 20s, through the depression, to World War II and the Civil Rights era. Malcolm's personal struggles throughout his life closely mirror the turmoil which plagued the nation during this snapshot in history. Malcolm X was born as Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He was the son of a Baptist minsiter and a bi-racial woman. Malcolm was the fifth of Earl and Louise Little's eight children. In 1929 the family’s home was set on fire by two white men. When the police and firemen arrived, they merely watched as the house burned to the ground. Eventually, the family moved to a four room home built by Malcolm’s father two miles outside of Lansing, Michigan. Most of Malcom's earliest memories were of his parents arguing. At times his father was violent toward his mother and siblings. Earl would beat all of the children except for him. Earl began taking Malcom with him to U.N.I.A. meetings. It was at these meetings where he saw his father become more intense, intelligent, and down to earth. Malcom also saw himself the same way. In 1931, Malcolm and his three older siblings came home from school to find his parents arguing like many times before. This argument led to Earl leaving the house. After his father left, Malcolm’s home life went steadily downhill. The family went on welfare and in 1937 the welfare worker sent Malcolm to the Gohannases to live. Shortly afterwards, his mother suffered a complete breakdown and was committed to a mental hospital. Malcolm visited his mother, occasionally. The last time he went to see her, she didn’t recognize him at all. He decided to never to go back. At the age of thirteen, Malcom though he should try his hand at boxing. His older brother, Philbert, was a good boxer and thus he thought he would be as well. He was wrong. Malcolm fought a white boy named Bill Peterson and got beat badly. Somewhat humbled, he trained hard in preparation for a re-match. When he fought Peterson again, he was knocked out with the first punch. Malcolm's fighting spirit eventually spilled over into the classroom. He was expelled from school for playing a prank on a teacher that had annoyed him. He went to court and was told that he had to attend a reform school. Malcolm went to a detention home in Mason, Michigan, which was like a pit stop before reform school. The people at the detention home all seemed like good white people to Malcolm. He liked them and they all liked him. Although, he was offended at how freely they used the word “nigger” in front of him as though it were something blacks preferred to be called. At the detention home, he had his own room for the first time in his life. He also ate with white people, which was the first time since the Seventh Day Adventist meetings when he was younger. Malcolm’s date to leave for reform school came and went two or three times. He was grateful to be staying and he knew it was because of Mrs. Swerlin. One day she told Malcolm that he would be going to Mason Junior High School. While he was there he was on the debate team, the basketball team, and also elected class president. Mrs. Swerlin had also gotten Malcolm a job washing dishes at a local restaurant. During the summer of 1940, Malcolm visited his half-sister, Ella. Ella lived in Roxbury which was one of the black areas in Boston. He had seen blacks in a way he never thought was possible. When he returned home, he grew restless with being around white people. At the end of the school, year he moved to Boston to live with his sister, Ella. In Roxbury, he was soon befriended by a guy named Shorty. Through Shorty, Malcolm met Freddie who got him a job as a shoe shine boy at Roseland State ballroom. After quitting his job at Roseland, Ella got Malcolm a job as a soda fountain clerk in a drug store....
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