I read 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X' in college. As a white, middle-class young man I never would have predicted that the book would have such a profound impact on me. Malcolm X’s life is the story of transformation. It is a transformation I went through with him as I read. Sometimes I cringed at some of his preposterous beliefs. Sometimes I took offense to his generalizations of whites. But those feelings were fleeting as I went from merely intrigued to absolutely enraptured by the text. I took it everywhere with me until I finished it.
For Malcolm X, all of his life experiences, including the darkest moments of his past, were an important part of him. I learned to embrace every aspect of my life and I understood that even those moments I’d like to forget are an important part of who I am. I also learned to have a purpose in life and to act on it immediately and to always choose my battles carefully.
By the end of the book, Malcolm X has been to Mecca. He views all people as children of Allah and he has had an awakening. He also knows his time on earth is limited. He knows the orders have been given and that he could be killed at any time. He tells us this with the same ferocious honesty that permeates the rest of the book. When Malcolm’s voice is ultimately silenced and Alex Haley takes over in his own voice to finish the story, it is a bone-chilling moment that no other book has come close to recreating.
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