A Glance at Malcolm X’s Autobiography and My Journey Towards It


Iman Ibrahim, Contributor

“My alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”

— Malcolm X

In the fourth grade I was assigned a project, to pick a celebrity or any historical figure, and write a short biography about them. Initially, I chose Jane Goodall. I did my (insert a synonym for: very elementary) research on her and wrote a short paper. I finished the assignment much earlier than any of my other classmates so my teacher gave me the challenge of starting a completely separate biography on a figure of my choice. Of course, I wasn’t expecting to be presented this opportunity. I scrambled to look for another person to write about with the hope that my second biography would be even better than the first.

After consulting with my older cousins about who to pick, I decided on Malcolm X. I didn’t really know much about him but I had heard the name and I was eager to attempt the challenge that my teacher had put forth for me. I ended up writing a short paper and making a presentation that I would later present to my fourth grade class and their parents.

Five years later, in my freshman English class at CRLS, we were assigned the reading of the graphic novel Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andy Helfer. My background knowledge combined with the new approach to a narrative about his life propelled my further interest in his life. Looking back, I feel like this book gave me a better understanding of his biography, but still left me hungry for more .

All these events lead me to reading the most famous account of his life: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by him and Alex Haley. My sophomore year I checked it out from the high school’s Pearl K. Wise library with high hopes. 

This book is all about Malcolm’s remarkable lifelong transformation. The beginning focuses on the spent time in foster homes and his time as a hustler in cities like Detroit, New York, and Boston. He lived in an America where bright black kids with big dreams were ridiculed and pitied rather than supported, and thus dropped out of school at a young age. His life really makes you think just how  society has managed to vilify the same people that they themselves are responsible for restricting in the first place.

Malcolm X is very unapologetic about his views in this autobiography  and that’s what I love the most about it. His writing is candid, sometimes even audacious, and still informative. This book is a must for everyone to read, whether young or old, white or black. It considers every stage of his eventful life and takes the reader on a journey that transcends the monotonous civil rights narrative still propagated to this day. The polymath Malcolm X, or El Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, dissected the race problem remarkably well and recorded it amazingly in this captivating book.