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Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  8,069 ratings  ·  484 reviews
Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all befor
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Hardcover, 608 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2011)
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Paul Bryant
This is a dense, thorough, dour book and I found it tough going most of the time, for a variety of reasons. Malcolm X is a complex and hair-raising subject. When we follow Malcolm through his tortured life, and it was tortured, we find ourselves face to face with some very disturbing views and statements and actions. The usual trajectory laid across Malcolm's life is that after the break from the Nation of Islam, and his pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, he became an enlightened all-embracing cham ...more
Zach
This book marks the end of the late great Dr. Marable's work while (hopefully?) simultaneously ushering in a fruitful re-examining of Malcolm X's life and place in the historical record. This means, of course, that it isn't quite the definitive work some people are holding it up to be, but would it really have been possible to capture something so complex and important in a single volume? Probably not, and especially not when so much remains unclear and so many sources remain unavailable (and, I ...more
Walter
The late Manning Marable was a lion of the contemporary African-American history community and deservedly so. It's a bit ironic and sad, then, that this work, the crowning achievement of his decades-long career, was published posthumously and that he didn't live to receive the full extent of the accolades that his work, especially in this latest incarnation, deserves. This book is masterful: piercingly insightful, thoroughly researched and unflinchingly candid about its subject. In all, it is a ...more
Sheri
Many people have read Haley's ghost-written "Autobiography Of Malcolm X." In this new biography, which was one of the 5 finalists for the nonfiction National Book Award this year, Marable deconstructs Haley's work, identifies the fictitious & erroneous content that for various reasons Malcolm X and/or Haley chose to include, and tells the real story of Malcolm X's life and assassination. Missing from the Haley account is the real story of Malcolm X's conversion to "traditional" Islam and his ...more
Janice
Malcolm X was a complex and extraordinary man. Reading Manning Marable's biography took me longer to read than most books and I found myself having to take breaks and read other things during the process. It wasn't that I didn't like the book but that it was so heavy with information and detail about the evolution of this man that I couldn't absorb it without pausing. Many reviews on these pages go into much detail about the book so I will not. What I found remarkable was learning about Malcolm' ...more
Karen
For true history buffs or scholars of Malcolm X, I am sure this book is a treasure. For me, it was a bit of a slog to make it all the way through. I enjoy reading about history and was interested in Malcolm X (about whom I knew almost nothing before reading this), but this book covered his life in almost excruciating detail, especially in the second half. The author explained in his afterword that he had 20 graduate and undergraduate students working with him to create a day-by-day recreation of ...more
Ernestine
This book will probably be known as the definitive work on Malcolm X in that it is the product of extensive research into the life and times of Malcolm. It is well written but also in need of an editor. It is a scholarly work that does not give insight into the brilliance and charisma of the man. It tells about some of the more well known people who's lives he impacted. But it does not speak on the countless people who listened to his speeches and had their own lives reinvented. I enjoyed the in ...more
Jason Walker
This book requires imagination. You cannot make assumptions that you think might be true. Everywhere you turn there is the opportunity for both failure and excess. This book does great justice in restoring Malcolm X's reputation. His previous biographers were aggressive in their prose and put their own thoughts into the issues raised. Mannining Marable has written a very readable book. You do not have to be inspired to read this book. At the same time you will be inspired. Malcolm X should be on ...more
Skip
Manning Marable has written a scholarly biography of a controversial civil rights figure. Unlike the Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, this book tries to separate facts from how Malcolm and Alex chose to portray him. After a few years of petty crime, Malcolm Little was convicted of a series of home thefts and sentenced to prison, where he converted to Muslim and became a devotee of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam (NOI). After his parole, Malcolm X rose to prominence as an ...more
Paige
4 1/2 stars.
I saw this book sitting on a shelf at the library, and having a pitifully small amount of knowledge regarding Malcolm X, I decided to check it out. When I was about 80 pages in, Peter asked me to read it aloud to him. Luckily, it was interesting enough that this was not a problem.

I asked Peter what he knew about Malcolm X, and he said that he, too, knew basically nothing--"He said 'We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.'" He said he'd tried to read the Autobiogr
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Chris Blocker
Cover a famous song and people will test its merits. Reboot a loved film and fanboys will let you know what they think. Write a biography that re-explores a very respected autobiography and you are guaranteed to elicit comparison.

It seems perhaps unfair to compare Manning Marable's biography of Malcolm X to The Autobiography of Malcolm X published in 1965. The Autobiography... as told to Alex Haley has sold several million copies and been named one of the most important and influential biographi
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Alex Roberts
Manning Marable's highly awaited work is certainly an enriching read and will be hard to best as far as being a comprehensive review of the life of Malcolm X. One of the author's intents is to throw light on some of the grey or misleading areas that have settled into lore over the years owing to Alex Haley's canonical "The Autobiography of Malcolm X." This objective is clearly met as Marable persuasively examines why sections of the Haley book appear to be unsubstantiated and/or driven either by ...more
Samuel
I absolutely loved this book, I couldn't put it down for the most part. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this time period, regardless of your personal feelings about the subject. I would also highly recommend it to anyone who already feels that they are operating with a basic understanding of who Malcolm X was, I guarantee that there will be multiple points within this book where certain assumptions would be challenged.

This book really went in depth in covering his evolving r
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Nick
Marable weaves a compelling narrative, fills in a lot of chronological gaps in Alex Haley's "Autobiography," and offers perhaps the most detailed account to date of Malcolm's evolving political thought (owing to new research on Malcolm's trips to the Middle East and Africa). His greatest achievement is taking Malcolm's intellectual legacy seriously and situating it within the Third World struggle for liberation. But some questions remain about the "new" revelations regarding Malcolm's life and a ...more
m.bryan.welton
though the marable book didn’t feel as powerful or inspiring as the haley narrative or as urgently necessary as i thought a “corrective” might be, i thought it was instructive in demonstrating how malcolm was shaped just as much if not more by the unfolding and contending forces of global anticolonial struggles and the black freedom movement writ large as he was a charismatic catalyst himself.

to some degree, i can kind of understand why people are so desperate to defend the mythology of a singu
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Kay D.
While Marable's writing definitely keeps you interested, I have mixed feelings about the "revelations" Marable offers. Much of it is nothing more than speculation and hearsay (he uses the phrase "Malcolm may..." quite a bit) and while Marable offers a lot in the way or citations, I was not satisfied with his proof. I found myself often wondering what his motive was as there seems to be hints of classism and elitism. And the judgmental tone is a bit much after a while. Nonetheless, interesting re ...more
Marcy
I think the book is quite interesting, although not because of Marable's skill as a biographer. I enjoyed the second half of the book far more than the first half, but mostly this is because Marable describes Malcolm X's travels throughout Africa and the Arab world and the ways it transformed his thinking about imperialism as a global struggle. What would really be an amazing book would be a collection of X's travel diaries from this period, which are quoted in the biography but not to the exten ...more
Arnoldo Garcia
Notes for a mini-review: "We are all Malcolm X"
The subtitle of Manning Marable's Malcolm X biography, A life of reinvention: Malcolm X, fits all our communities. Like Malcolm and because Malcolm is part of our communities, our communities have had to self-transform in the face of crushing exploitation and dispersions. We have had to re-invent ourselves to survive and thrive; yet, we cannot and will not forget who we are, where we came from, how we got here and where we need to go.

Malcolm X was f
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Louise
This is an information-packed book fully covering this short but influential life. I believe this will stand as the definitive work on Malcolm X for a long time to come. For a book that documents as well as tells the story, Manning Marable does an excellent job of holding the reader's interest throughout.

Malcolm's family, the Little's, lost its house in a likely arson (for which his father was accused of starting for insurance money, when he had no insurance), lost its husband/father in a likely
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Ann Pearlman


I must confess that my daughter was one of the researchers for this book, so I had eagerly awaited its publication which occurred a few days after Dr. Marable's tragic death.

I thoroughly appreciated the glimpse of Malcolm X as a human being with all the foibles, faults and struggles as well his evolution and continual intellectual growth. It is the rounded picture of the person behind the icon which increased my understanding and respect for him as I learned how his experiences pushed him to
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Tyrone Mitchell
This is the book that I wish "Autobiography" was. I appreciate the fact that Marable went into detail regarding the idea of what "Autobiography" was set out to be. No disrespect to Haley - he wrote as good of a book as he could have under the circumstances.

What I wanted (and got) out of "Reinvention" was the details that led to his split with the NOI, what led him to traditional Islam, and his views and change of heart after he took the hajj to Mecca. I believe that aspect of Malcolm's life had
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Mykl
This is not a terrible book but after more than a decade in the making quite a disappointment. In many ways this book reads like a summary of other books on Malcolm X. Also alot of speculation in the book about "possible" sexual activity, meetings, etc reads more like a gossip column. I still believe the best starting point for reading about Malcolm is his autobiography. After that there are plenty of books better researched and written than this one.
Jasmin
After I finished reading this book last night, I kissed the cover. Manning Marable's last published work is something that I encourage all of us to absorb. Malcolm's humanity is illuminated through the journey Marable takes the reader on. The reinventions that Malcolm embodies throughout his life are lessons for all of us as we continue forward carrying his legacy of truth, justice and love, whether we recognize it or not.
Byron
This is a strong 4/5, but a 4/5 nonetheless. I'd recommend it to anyone who fuxwit the Autobiography (so pretty much everyone), with the caveat that the author at least kinda failed, I mean if the idea here was to present an image of Malcolm X that's drastically different than the one we already had. There's boatloads of nitpicking, filling in the blanks on things that X and Alex Haley couldn't possibly have known (especially wrt to FBI and NYPD surveillance) and pure speculation, along with a l ...more
Jose
Amazing and thoughtful, Marable makes Malcolm palpable in ways others simply couldn't.
Thomas Rush
I know that what I am about to say may make my "review" one of the longer ones, but I have to say it. Please purchase the book "By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X: Real, Not Reinvented: Critical Conversations on Manning Marable's Biography of Malcolm X," a book published by Third World Press. The entirety of the book explains as clearly and sagaciously as it can what I truly would write in a review of Manning Marable's book.
For all of Malcolm X's public career, despite whatever changes he went th
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Dora
I'm emerging from my six-month Goodreads hiatus because this book was so important and fantastic, I feel a 5-star review is necessary.

Until now, the Autobiography of Malcolm X has been considered the definitive history of the man. How amazing is it that no one until now challenged the assertions made by the man himself and a journalist? Such an important figure in American history, and aside from his own words (as interpreted by Alex Haley), we know little about him. Until now.

Manning Marable, a
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Gayle
Growing up in small-town Texas in the 60s and 70s was not so different from growing up there in the 40s and 50s. Everything else happening in the world was somehow disconnected from our town, our world. Schools weren't desegregated until 1967, when I was a senior in high school; blacks still lived in what had been designated as their part of town, and the pictures on our black and white television of blacks being beaten and attacked by dogs seemed to me to be happening in another country somewhe ...more
Catherine Woodman
Malcom X, an emigma, an emblem, and a legend. When you look at the cult heroes of the civil rights movement only Martin Luther King occupies a more exalted position, but it is Malcolm X whose legend has the greater street credibility and aura of cool.
Yet Malcolm Little, as he was born, was a petty thief and a pimp who found salvation in the Nation of Islam (NOI), a bizarre cult led by a mountebank and sexual predator named Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad preached that white people were a race of devi
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CD
I sat up way too late the past two evenings reading this cover to cover. Then I needed to return it to its owner. Now I have an e-version loaded and am pouring through it again.

The first impression that I have of this book beyond it is an extremely well written work, is that the author may have made a major historical contribution in correcting much of the mythic and legendary stories surrounding Malcolm X and his role in the Civil Rights era.

Two general areas jump out in my marathon reading, Ma
...more
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African American ...: Malcolm, Martin, Muhammad and Manning 1 7 Dec 05, 2012 03:35PM  
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Manning Marable was an American professor of public affairs, history and African-American Studies at Columbia University. He founded and directed the Institute for Research in African-American Studies. He authored several texts and was active in progressive political causes. At the time of his death, he had completed a biography of human rights activist Malcolm X, entitled Malcolm X: A Life of Rei ...more
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“To blacks, it was abundantly clear what groups like the NAACP and CORE wanted; the NOI, by contrast and largely by design, had no clear social program that realistically could be implemented (215).” 3 likes
“Within the Nation, he [Malcolm] explained that his purpose was to present the views of Elijah Muhammad and to challenge distortions about their religion. In fact, his objectives were to turn upside down the standard racial dialectic of black subordination and white supremacy, and to show off his rhetorical skill at the expense of white authorities and Negro integrationists (185).” 2 likes
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