Valerie McEnroe's Reviews > Betty Before X

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz
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This is the story of the childhood of Betty Dean Sanders, future wife of civil rights leader Malcom X. Betty was born to a teenage mother and raised by her aunt in South Carolina until she died. Around age 11 she was reunited with her mother and stepsiblings in Detroit. She and her mother were never able to establish a bond and she eventually went to live with another family in her church, the Malloys. Mrs. Malloy was a member of an organization called The Housewives League. Their main method of protest was to rally black people to discontinue shopping at businesses that wouldn’t hire black people. Betty became a junior member of this group which helped set the foundation for her future activism.

The bad news is that I listened to the audiobook version of this book and almost abandoned it. It is read by the author. I have listened to many audiobooks and I have found that authors generally don’t do a very good job of reading their books. They aren’t actors and it comes across. The language is young and lacks depth, but again, this could be due to the way it’s read.

The good news is that once I got past the chapters on Betty’s family life and into the chapters on the civil rights injustices, my natural love for historical fiction took over. In the beginning, there were too many mundane every day details. Normally, I like this, if it is well written. In this case the simplistic language got in the way. The author, who is Betty’s daughter, does a nice job of detailing the cultural atmosphere of the 1940s. Two excellent examples are the advertisements in Ebony magazine encouraging black people to lighten their skin and the requirement to use a cardboard insert when buying shoes since they weren’t allowed to try them on. Also prominent in the picture of the 1940s is the importance of church and religion to black culture.

What I loved the most about the book are all the positive messages. Mrs. Malloy, who Betty eventually refers to as her mother, gives Betty wonderful advice about counting her blessings when she gets upset about things. Betty reaches a point of maturity where she reflects on things like love, and knows how lucky she is to have the Malloys for parents. This attitude becomes firmly entrenched in her personality and has a tremendous influence on her own daughters later.

By the end I wished I could give this book a higher rating, but I couldn’t give a pass to the mediocre writing. Even so, it’s an excellent story, worthy of reading.
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Reading Progress

July 18, 2018 – Shelved
July 18, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
August 1, 2018 – Started Reading
August 2, 2018 – Shelved as: african-american
August 2, 2018 – Shelved as: civil-rights
August 2, 2018 – Shelved as: dysfunctional-family
August 2, 2018 – Shelved as: historical
August 2, 2018 – Shelved as: middle-grade
August 2, 2018 – Shelved as: racial-tension
August 2, 2018 – Finished Reading

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