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Growing Up X
Cover of Growing Up X
Growing Up X
A Memoir by the Daughter of Malcolm X
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“Ilyasah Shabazz has written a compelling and lyrical coming-of-age story as well as a candid and heart-warming tribute to her parents. Growing Up X is destined to become a...
“Ilyasah Shabazz has written a compelling and lyrical coming-of-age story as well as a candid and heart-warming tribute to her parents. Growing Up X is destined to become a...
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  • “Ilyasah Shabazz has written a compelling and lyrical coming-of-age story as well as a candid and heart-warming tribute to her parents. Growing Up X is destined to become a classic.”
    –SPIKE LEE

    February 21, 1965: Malcolm X is assassinated in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom. June 23, 1997: After surviving for a remarkable twenty-two days, his widow, Betty Shabazz, dies of burns suffered in a fire. In the years between, their six daughters reach adulthood, forged by the memory of their parents’ love, the meaning of their cause, and the power of their faith. Now, at long last, one of them has recorded that tumultuous journey in an unforgettable memoir: Growing Up X.

    Born in 1962, Ilyasah was the middle child, a rambunctious livewire who fought for–and won–attention in an all-female household. She carried on the legacy of a renowned father and indomitable mother while navigating childhood and, along the way,...

Excerpts-

  • From the book Aftermath

    I was there that day. We all were, all except baby Gamilah who, in the last-minute rush to go hear Daddy speak, got left behind with friends because her little snowsuit was too damp to wear out into the cold. But the rest of us were there, sitting stage right on a curved and cushioned bench: Mommy, Attallah, Qubilah, myself. Even the twins, Malikah and Malaak, were present to bear witness, carried not in Mommy’s arms but inside her womb, deep beneath her heart.

    It was February 21, 1965. My father, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz—Malcolm X—telephoned my mother at the Wallace home that morning with a surprising request. He wanted Mommy to bring us girls and come to the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem to hear him speak. My mother was elated; just the day before he had warned her not to come, saying it was too dangerous.

    We were staying with the Wallace family because eight days before our house in Elmhurst, Queens, had been firebombed. It was early Sunday morning and cold outside. Mommy and Daddy were asleep in their bedroom, Attallah, Qubilah, and I were in our room, and Gamilah was in the nursery when a blast awakened us all. Barking orders and grabbing terrified children, my father got us all up and out the back door into the yard. It took the fire department an hour to extinguish the flames. Mommy telephoned the Wallaces, saying, “The house is on fire.” The Wallaces put their twelve-year-old daughter Gail—our baby-sitter and play “big sister”—in the car and drove to our house. Gail told me she remembers walking into the house and being almost overwhelmed by the smell of smoke.

    “Everyone was in the kitchen,” Gail said, “and to get to the kitchen you had to walk through the foyer, the living room, a long hallway, and your room, the room you girls slept in. That room was a mess, burned and wet and scattered, because that’s where the bomb had been thrown. I saw all these people standing in the kitchen. I remember crawling through men and women, Muslim men, to get to your mother. She was sitting at the kitchen table talking and when she saw me she said, ‘Oh, dear heart, they’re trying to burn me out of my house.’ She was happy to see me because she knew once I was there I would take over the girls enough so she could get the situation under control. She had a little grin on her face but it wasn’t one of pleasure.”

    The Wallace family—Antoinette, her husband Thomas, who is Ruby Dee’s brother and was known then as Thomas 57X, and their four children—took us in that night. My father made sure we were settled at the Wallace home, then checked into the Theresa Hotel. He knew he was a walking target and he didn’t want anyone else to get hit. He told Mommy he wanted to take the trouble away from us.

    Four days later, the Nation of Islam went to court to evict us from our home.

    In the aftermath of the fire, my father never stopped working. Friends like Ossie Davis begged him to flee. His brother Wilfred advised him to “hush and forget this whole thing” and go to Africa until things cooled down. There were any number of African nations whose leaders would have been happy to offer him refuge, but Daddy refused to even discuss the idea. He was not about to run. He took what security precautions he could, but through it all he kept working, flying to Detroit to speak at an event in honor of Charles Howard, a renowned journalist who covered the African liberation movement for Muhammad Speaks and other black newspapers, then turning around and flying back home to New York for another flurry of speaking...

About the Author-

  • Ilyasah Shabazz holds a Master of Science degree in Education and Human Resource Development from Fordham University. She is the Director of Public Affairs and Special Events for the City of Mount Vernon, New York.

    Kim McLarin is the author of the novels Taming It Down and Meeting of the Waters. She formerly worked as a journalist for The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Associated Press. She lives with her family outside of Boston, Mass.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 8, 2002
    One of Malcolm X's six daughters, Shabazz was two when he was assassinated in February 1965. The bulk of the book covers the day-to-day specifics of Shabazz's childhood and adolescence as a middle-class African-American Muslim girl, punctuated by small brushes with her parents' past. Malcolm X is justifiably sentimentalized via the fragmentary memories and second-hand stories of Shabazz's childhood perspective (including a visit to the soon-to-be Muhammad Ali's training camp). Shabazz's mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz, eventually a professor of health administration at Medgar Evers College, is a constant presence in the book; "Mommy" shepherds Ilyasah and the other girls through school, and herself through graduate work, with "amazing strength and perseverance." Ilyasah's often ordinary existence is rendered in unadorned prose (to the point of listing teachers she had in various schools or chronicling a standoff with neighborhood girls), and her insights into herself and those around her can be cursory (a rape is covered in two pages) if honestly rendered. Shabazz is working on a book about her parents, which may explain why it sometimes feels like anecdotes and information are being held back. By the time Ilyasah comes to a more nuanced understanding of her identity as the daughter of Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz is killed by a fire set by one of Ilyasah's nephews in 1997. The book ends there, with exhortations that "Life is not a destination; it is a journey." (May)Forecast:Despite this memoir's thinness, it should generate a great deal of attention, not least via a 15-city author tour and a host of media appearances. Media interest in Islam has not resulted in a resurgence of interest in the Nation of Islam, but this book could be a first step, though it is far from a political or religious history.

  • MAYA ANGELOU "Only Ilyasah Shabazz could have told this story. . . . I congratulate her on the courage to remember, the courage to see, and the courage to say what she saw."
  • BEBE MOORE CAMPBELL Author of Your Blues Ain't Like Mine and What You Owe Me "AN INTIMATE LOOK AT THE MAN WHO BOTH REVOLUTIONIZED AND NATIONALIZED THE COLLECTIVE BLACK PSYCHE. A cultural deity is rendered by his daughter's clear-sighted portrait."
  • Ebony "IT OFFERS CANDID INSIGHTS INTO THE LIVES OF ILYASAH AND HER SISTERS."

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