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Betty Before X

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,414 ratings  ·  289 reviews
A powerful middle-grade novel about the childhood activism of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, written by their daughter.

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, t
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  1,414 ratings  ·  289 reviews

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Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Here we get the story of Betty Shabazz as a girl, long before she met Malcolm, and had her six daughters, and got her PhD, and rocked our world, and it was narrated by the author, her daughter, no less. This book was for a younger crowd than a ya book I’d say, and yet, it speaks about police brutality, and lynchings, and the death of loved ones, and civil rights, and child abuse, in a way that younger kids can listen to. The book is just a short chunk of time, featuring Betty just living her ext ...more
Brandy Painter
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is a narrative on the life of Betty Shabazz's childhood. This is the little girl who would grow up to be the wife of Malcom X and a community leader. It is considered fiction because of the way the story is told, but her daughter is one of the author's so the basic facts of Betty's life are true. The book is a short, quick read. It's perfect for kids who love historical fiction or stories about complicated families and friendships. I found it engaging and hard to book down.
Ms. Yingling
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

In the 1940s, young Betty Dean is being raised by a beloved aunt who feels that Betty's mother didn't take good care of her. The mother has remarried, moved to Detroit, and had other young daughters. When her aunt dies, Betty is forced to leave her comfortable life in the south to be raised in a crowded apartment with her step sisters. She spends a lot of time at church and hanging out with her girlfriends. The girls are especially interested in the work of the Housewive
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a great overview of the childhood of Betty Shabazz - a woman who would eventually become to the wife of Malcolm X. This is fiction, but Renee Watson worked with Ilyasah Shabazz, one of Betty’s daughters, so the facts here are about as true as a recounting of history can be.

Presenting this as a story will definitely make this material more palatable for younger readers which is fantastic. This book breaches a lot of topics, such as social justice, segregation, and privilege (among other
Up until reading this book I knew nothing about Betty Shabazz, other than her name. You could chalk that up to privilege or to my ignorance. Anyway, I am extremely grateful for the books that Ilyasah Shabazz -- the daughter of Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X -- has been writing. I read her fictionalized biography of her father last year, and now this one about her mother. Betty Shabazz, born in Georgia to a teenaged mother, her paternal grandmother suspected she was being abused and removed her from ...more
Bethany Parker
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a sweet and informative book about a time period I'm not as familiar with as I'd like to be. A great take on historical fiction, describing the early life of Betty Shabazz. It's a great mix of transparent vulnerability and faith-based positivity.
I'm going to give this a tentative 3.5 stars because I don't entirely know how to rate it. The first half was beautiful, full of tenderness and humanity; I loved it. Loved it!

About halfway through, though, it morphs into a series of didactic adult conversations overheard by Betty before ending rather abruptly. When all is said and done, there's no real story arc to speak of.

The writing is approachable and this would probably be a fine introduction to the civil rights movement to a middle grade
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it

Betty Dean, age eleven, moves up north to Detroit in the early 1940s to live with her mother after her Aunt Fannie Mae dies. Betty’s mother, whom she calls Ollie Mae, had Betty as a teenager and their relationship is distant. Betty isn’t quite old enough to understand why her mother tells her that she is ungrateful, ornery, and like her daddy, bad to the core.

Fellow churchgoers Mr. and Mrs. Malloy take Betty in. Mrs. Malloy is a leader in the Housewives League, and organization that boyco
Susan Morris
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s
Great historical fiction book on childhood of Dr. Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X. I learned so much from this., and hope young readers will enjoy it, too. (Library)
Laura (bbliophile)
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-releases
A really good and super informative middle grade book. I'm glad I got to know a little more about Betty Shabazz. The book was hard to read sometimes because of the subject matters it dealt with (trigger warnings for racism and racially charged violence, including lynchings), but it dealt with these subject matters in a great way. I would definitely recommend this book.
Karen Arendt
I have seen quite a bit of publicity about this ttile, and am glad I took the time to read it. Betty is a strong, loving, forgiving character shown by her continued love and her respect for her mother despite her living away from her much of the time. Betty’s character experiences much during the story set in the 1940s of Detroit. Readers learn about to the efforts to improve conditions of African-Americans as well.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read an ARC of this fascinating story about the childhood of Dr. Betty Shabazz. This is the kind of book that makes history come to life, and I sure wish I had more of these available as a younger reader. It did end apruptly- I had anticipated more of a traditional biography, but this focuses just on a few pivotal years of her life. The back matter is not to be missed. This will lend itself to powerful student discussions.
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Betty struggles with being an African American in the 1940s and her relationship with her mother, and friends. When she starts to volunteer with at an organization with some women at her church and with her closest friend, she starts to become more confident about who she is and figures out what's right and what is wrong. It is AMAZING and I could not put it down.
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chapter-books
I loved listening to the audio version of this stunning book based on the life of the author's mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz. Betty's struggle as she navigates her relationships with her mother and younger siblings, the political landscape of Detroit in the 1940's, burgeoning friendships with other girls, her church community, and her newfound family and support system.
Leonard Kim
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought most of this was quite good, so the spots that lapsed into telling not showing did stick out a bit. The endnote says some things were fabricated to be more educational, and in retrospect that shows and I wish they hadn’t done that. We learn a great deal just from Betty’s experience.
Mary Lee
An important story that shows how the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement were planted in the 1940's.

Side note -- I'm currently listening to Their Eyes Were Watching God, (MASTERFULLY) read by Ruby Dee, so I was especially interested to note the connections between her and the adult Betty.
Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens
Before she married Malcolm X, Betty was a girl full of her own dreams for a better future. Written by one of her daughters.
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s a miracle I’m alive to tell you about “Betty Before X.” I listened to it as an audiobook, flying south on Connecticut’s winding Merritt parkway in the dark, well over the speed limit, with tears pouring down my face.
This wonderful historical retelling of the life of Betty Dean Sanders (later the wife of Malcom X, among MANY other achievements) is heart-warming, shocking, sad, and funny. I loved it because it offered the domestic and peer-centric warmth of a middle grade novel while simultan
hood elle woods
Actual Rating: 2.5/5

Remember when you were a kid just learning about racism, MLK, and Rosa Parks and the education system made it seem like those events happened a lifetime ago? Remember watching Our Friend Martin, learning that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and spending the whole month of February learning about those same two people only to later find out that what you learned as a child didn’t come close to scratching the surface of who these prominent figures were. That’s what this
Elissa Schaeffer
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was both hopeful and heartbreaking at once. Before she was a smart, strong, resilient woman, Betty was a smart, strong, resilient girl.

Betty's childhood was not easy. She was taken by her grandmother as an infant to live with her aunt after she discovered that Betty's mother wasn't taking good care of her. She loved her aunt and was quite happy with her, however she died while Betty was still young so Betty heads to Detroit to live with her mother and step-brothers and half-sisters. Bu it
Laura Gardner
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this historical #mglit book by @ilyasahshabazz and @harlemportland, which comes out 1/2/18. Thanks to @kidlitexchange for the review copy of this book. All opinions are my own!
Swipe to see a summary of this historical fiction book about the childhood of Dr. Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X.
This book will make a wonderful addition to every classroom or school library. I was fascinated to learn about Betty’s life in 1940s Detroit; even as a middle schooler she
Joanne Kelleher
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it
The fact that this book was based on an influential and remarkable woman, Betty Shabazz (wife of Malcolm X), makes up for the so-so writing. It is hard to pinpoint the moment that an activist is born; this book attempts to create a timeline of the important markers and people in the life of young Betty Dean Sanders that set her on the path of social justice (there is a literal timeline in the back of the book).
No doubt that this is an important story worth telling, but some of it felt like ficti
Corinne Wilson
Betty knows from Sunday School that you reap what you sow, but the more she tries to concentrate on the blessings in her life and to be good, the more difficult it is to ignore the racism in her own community and her difficult relationship with her mother. Despite its frank discussion of prejudice at home during WWII, the story of future activist and wife of Malcolm X Betty Shabazz isn't too heavy handed. Betty loves her friends, is active at church, revels in her own creative powers, loves the ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
I usually enjoy authors reading their own stories but this was not one of those times. Her narration was stilted and made it difficult to focus on the content. But I loved the introduction to a figure I know little about. Just pick this one up in print. The book overall: 4 stars. Audiobook version: 3 stars.
Real rating: 3.75 stars

Not to be all "this book is important for kids" but... it is. It handles a lot of tough topics well and shows how ordinary people can help in creating change.

I'm just not sure how I fee able the relationship between Betty and her biological mother. Something about that in the later chapters made me feel not the best.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Black girls learning more about themselves, their beauty, and their capacity to make change. These are the kinds of books I hope to see more of for readers of all ages, but especially those coming into their own. Lovely to see Betty Shabazz celebrated in this way.
Shauna Yusko
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fabulous and much-needed book for middle school, which will unfortunately be a hard sell due to the very young looking cover.

The audiobook (narrated by Shabazz) either had technical issues or a weird cadence to the reading that distracted me (but probably wouldn’t bother tween listeners).
Colleen Benelli
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
This is a book for young adults. It's well written for that audience but also enjoyable for adults. I knew nothing about Malcolm X's wife. This book has not only introduced me to Betty Shabazz but has sparked an interest to learn more.
Heather Moore
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, audiobooks
Fantastic story about a lady I’ll admit to not knowing much about but want to learn oh-so-much more now. Listen to the audio if you can, as this book is both written and narrated by one of Betty’s own daughters. I especially loved the author’s notes at the end.
Jennifer Mangler
This is a lovely coming of age story. Betty's life in 1940s Detroit is not always easy. She joins the fight to make the world a more just place in ways both large and small, and she consistently tries to focus on the blessings in her life.
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Around the Year i...: Betty Before X, by Ilyasah Shabazz 1 7 Nov 20, 2019 08:56AM  
Mock Newbery 2021: April Read - Betty Before X 18 209 Oct 13, 2018 05:06PM  

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Ilyasah Shabazz, third daughter of Malcolm X, is an activist, producer, motivational speaker, and the author of the critically acclaimed Growing Up X and the picture book Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X. She lives in Westchester County, New York.

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