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Betty Before X

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  696 ratings  ·  160 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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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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 was i
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-fic
An accessible look into the early life and formative years of Civil Rights activist Dr. Betty Shabazz.

Endnotes provide context to title, as the narrative ends years before Betty meets X.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Middle grade historical fiction based on the childhood of Betty Dean Sanders aka Betty Shabazz or Betty X. There is great background information and notes at the back of the book. But the appeal is its universal themes that middle-schoolers will be able to relate to: mother-daughter relationships, the definition of a family, rejection from family and peers, navigating friendships, self-confidence, image.

That One Librarian
Betty Before X is the story of young African-American girl growing up in the 1940's in Detroit. Betty was born to Ollie Mae, but taken to live with her Aunt Fannie Mae. When Betty has just turned 7, Fannie Mae dies and Betty moves to Detroit to be with her mother. Things are very difficult at home, however, and readers will twist inside reading instances of emotional and physical abuse (though nothing which is inappropriate for the target age group). Luckily, Betty is able to run away and live w ...more
I am a reader who doesn't read blurbs or plot reviews. I like to go into a book completely free of opinion. Hence, I didn't realize while I was reading this that it was a mostly biographical account of the girl who would become the wife of Malcolm X. It is written by her daughter. By the time I got to that information at the end of the book, I had already acknowledge that this was an important story.

Betty is taken away from her mother as a young baby when her grandmother finds a bruise on her n
Thomas Bell
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have to admit I was nervous about reading this book. The author, Ilyasah Shabazz, is an activist and the daughter of the famous black supremacist Malcolm X. (Ilyasah is lucky by the way - her two older sisters are named after Attila the Hun and Kublai Khan respctively, though she was named after the hypocritical leader, Elijah Muhammad, of the hateful Nation of Islam).

Anyway, the book is actually really good. It talks about the life of Malcolm X's future wife, Betty Shabazz, turing her early t
Abby Rubin
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
ARC from Edelweiss

Before she married Malcolm X, Betty grew up in Detroit in 1945. She lived with her mother and half siblings and threw herself into church activities and the Housewives League. She wanted to live a normal life with her two best friends and her community, but she was right in the middle of the push for more freedom for black folks. Betty worked hard to juggle all of the aspects of her life, and her daugher, Ilyasah Shabazz tells the story beautifully.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was such a beautiful and inspiring story! I honestly didn't know much about Betty Shabazz before she met Malcolm X and seeing this glimpse into her childhood is both heart-breaking and inspiring.

There were some tough parts to read that deal with racism and child abuse but it was all done tastefully. So many books get off on the shock value of these painful experiences but every difficult scene in this book felt purposeful in the way it was told.

There's even a section in the back that talk
Deana Metzke
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book about Betty Shabazz's childhood. It was nice to see a different view of African-American life in the 1940s, one that is not focused on poverty. Betty's family and friends seemed to be part of a working/middle class, a perspective that is not often shown in kid lit.

The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because as an adult, I think I enjoyed it a little more because I knew who Betty was, and I'm not sure if a child would enjoy it in the same way. They do a wonderf
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Mock Newbery 2019: April Read - Betty Before X 18 205 Oct 13, 2018 05:06PM  
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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