Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary Author: Walter Dean Myers. Price: $13.95. Pages: 210. Publisher: Scholastic.
What happens when Malcolm X's exciting life and Walter Dean Myers' writing ability are combined? A riveting story that's almost impossible to put down.
In his latest book for teens, the biography Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary, Myers takes you on an emotional ride through the hardships Malcolm X encountered as a youth. The book pinpoints certain incidents in Malcolm's life and describes how they affected him.
Myers does a surprising job of portraying Malcolm's childhood from the perspective of a child, which was a big plus for me. It helped me realize what he was through by putting me in his place.
One example is when Malcolm is taken away by welfare officials. Thirteen-year-old Malcolm was placed in foster care shortly after Earl Little, Malcolm's father, was murdered. Officials considered Mrs. Little an "unfit" mother. Being about his age helped me understand his emotions.
Other obstacles faced Malcolm. When he told his teacher that he wanted to be a lawyer, this was his teacher's response:
"We all here like you, you know that. But you've got to be realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer - that's no realistic goal for a nigger. You need to think about something that you can be. You're good with your hands. Why don't you plan on carpentry?" . . .
The teacher probably thought he was doing Malcolm a favor . . . On that day Malcolm, in many ways, simply gave up on the American dream.
For anyone this would be a defeating experience.
In the book you also discover the anger that was inside Malcolm while he was a young man, which was like many young black men during that time. Myers vividly describes all the racism and hatred that Malcolm experienced as a child and as a young man.
Myers' illustration of this traumatic time for Malcolm is an example of superb writing. Myers uses 21 sources for his research, making it obvious that he attempts to understand Malcolm X.
Myers describes a slick and rough Malcolm entering prison:
Malcolm was 18 years old in 1943 and, like many young black men his age, drifted from job to job. In between the jobs, he claims, in his autobiography, that he was a street hustler. He sold marijuana, gambled, and ran numbers for big-time mobsters. By this time he had been given the name of "Detroit Red" by his friends, and it was as "Detroit Red" that he viewed himself as a streetwise sharpie. . . .
He used drugs himself, and he began to pull small holdups. He knew how many people had just turned off their minds, had given up on life and had, in a way, become spiritually dead. He (Malcolm) himself had become spiritually dead. . . .
(After being arrested, tried and convicted of theft) Malcolm was taken to Charlestown State Prison, across the Charles River from Boston. At the prison he was fingerprinted and photographed.
Myers contrasts this gangster to the educated, reformed man coming out of prison.
Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary gives the reader perspective of the legacy of Malcolm's ideas and beliefs. It tells the true tale of Malcolm X's life, and it lets you form your own opinion about this man, whether it be good or bad.
I would recommend this book to teen-agers who have the desire to know about this leader and his significance in history.