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Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  15,519 ratings  ·  724 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
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Viking Adult
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Taalib Alexander The autobiography without a doubt. This book has some interesting and controversial material. It uses circumstantial evidence as fact. While the autob…moreThe autobiography without a doubt. This book has some interesting and controversial material. It uses circumstantial evidence as fact. While the autobiography, while it has been crafted to reflect a particular outlook is no doubt the production of Malcolm X and Alex Haley. The next book would be Judas Factor by Karl Evanzz.(less)
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Paul Bryant
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was quite a book, both terms of in length and content and I am sure it is one that will stay with me for some time. I'm not sure what made me pick it up, after having considered, then rejected it several times before. In any case, though, I am glad I did. It is an immersive and extensively researched book about a man who has become a sort of legend, whether viewed in a positive or negative light. I feel I learned so much about him, and also about the time he lived in and the struggle of civ ...more
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Edwin Cruz
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a must-read for anyone that has read Malcolm's autobiography. Marable's investigative work, alone, makes this book worth reading. While some of his theories regarding Malcolm are far reaching, the book makes Malcolm palpable to ordinary readers. If the Autobiography fascinated you then this book will be a great way to address some of the "facts."
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 rej ...more
Michael O'Brien
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Most of my impression of Malcolm X was formed during grade school when I read about him in a 1972 encyclopedia --- which, in general, was that he was one of the two pillars of the Civil Rights Movement --- the other being Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It told of his rough and criminal past, reformed via conversion to the Nation of Islam (NOI); becoming a fiery advocate for black pride, for civil rights, and for black separation from whites; and, later in life, becoming more moderate in his views a ...more
Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I spent 11 days with this book. Half of those days, I’ve dealt with some kind of ebola zika bird flu strep throat virus. So it’s just been me, my bed, Kleenex, and these nearly 600 pages of the life of Malcolm X.

Noted African American history professor and scholar, Manning Marable claimed these pages as his life’s work. After teaching The Autobiography of Malcolm X and noticing inconsistencies within the book, he decided to piece together Malcolm’s life from diary entries, interviews, FBI a
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, race
When I was in the military, I read every book I could get my hands on about Malcolm X. I would have loved to have been a helper for Mr. Marable as he gathered information to write this book. It is now the definitive biography of Malcolm. A true masterpiece of biography.

Marable even makes a point of critiquing the Alex Haley book the Autobiography of Malcolm X. He does not mess with words when he points out the weaknesses of that book. He tries not to make the same mistakes. There is so much eff
Mar 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
In my opinion, the author was trying hard to taint Malcolm X's image by trying to "expose" his dark past, eg. claiming he had relations with other men, which his daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, questioned the accuracy of these accounts. If you want to gain an understanding of this remarkable & honoured man's life, work and influences, read books that are reliable such as his auto-biography and books that encompass his speeches. ...more
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jason Walker
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Barry Sierer
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
How does a radical become a radical? When you understand Malcolm X’s formative years you might ask yourself how he could NOT be a radical.

Marable has taken on the arduous task of trying to tie down and synthesize the life of a man who significantly changed his path, and even his core beliefs, several times throughout his short life.

He has gone to lengths to confirm sources, and to seek out the multitude of viewpoints that are necessary to thoroughly examine Malcolm’s life. Marable did not alway
Chris Blocker
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a stunning book that recreates the life of a incredibly courageous and principled man. The author isn't afraid to highlight Malcolm's many flaws and in a way knowing these humanizes Malcolm even more for us.

I have seen outraged companions to this book arguing that the book is full of fabrications or that the author tried to somehow tried to denigrate Malcolm's life. I suppose it is natural to want our heroes to be marble men but knowing that in many ways they are not different from ours
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
Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I must add my voice to those who were impressed by the thoroughness of Marable's book. The book goes deeper than perhaps any book currently on the market concerning the life of Malcolm X. It basically takes you inside the Autobiography, while adding additional depth and insight. If you read with a critical mind, you will not be bothered by what some have said are the author's "opinions." It is not the job of the historian/biographer to tell you what you should think, he can only give you the fac ...more
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book was a massive feat. Despite having listened to it on audiobook, it was still a long slog (23 long hours!), and by the end there were still so many unanswered questions and unexamined areas. That said, Dr. Marable did an incredible job challenging our conception of who Malcolm X truly was and believed by surfacing all his contradictions and being unafraid to push aside carefully crafted myths of this lauded figure (most notably the carefully crafted Haley-Lee mythology). Malcolm X ...more
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Feisty Harriet
I knew very little about Malcolm X prior to reading this book and I appreciate the author focusing on the ways that Malcolm changed and transformed his public persona throughout his lifetime. From a criminal, to a minister and teacher for the Nation of Islam, to starting his own Islamic church (branch? organization?)...from militant protests to a more inclusive and civil dialogue, Malcolm X was constantly adjusting his politics and his protests. I am still processing said politics and trying to ...more
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Marable has crafted a compelling life story of a fascinating and divisive man, with due attention to the wider contexts in which he developed his outlook and goals for black power. Diverse voices within the black community from the 1930s through the 70s receive close attention, making this book a useful way to study 20th century race, religion, and politics in the US, spreading to a more global context. Great work.
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing and thoughtful, Marable makes Malcolm palpable in ways others simply couldn't.
Arnoldo Garcia
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Alex Roberts
Apr 25, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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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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73 likes · 19 comments
“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).” 5 likes
“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).” 4 likes
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