Growing Up X: A Memoir by the Daughter of Malcolm X

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Press:Ballantine Books One World (January 14, 2003)
Publication Date:2003-1
ISBN:9780345444967
Author Name:Shabazz, Ilyasah
Pages:235
Language:English

Content

“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 LEEFebruary 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, learning to do the hustle.
She was a different color from other kids at camp and yet, years later as a young woman, was not radical enough for her college classmates.
Her story is, sbove all else, a tribute to a mother of almost unimaginable forbearance, a woman who, “from that day at the Audubon when she heard the shots and threw her body on [ours, never] stopped shielding her children.”

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Shabazz was two years old when her father was  murdered in the presence of his young family, and she describes  how her mother heroically raised her and her sisters in his  absence. 
Betty Shabazz got help from friends and wealthy celebrities to buy a big, beautiful home in Mt.
Vernon, NY, after the Nation of Islam evicted them from the small house it had provided during Malcolm X's ministry.
The girls led comfortable, sheltered, upper-middle-class lives, complete with housekeepers, chauffeured cars, exclusive social clubs, and expensive, predominantly white private schools and summer camps.
In her well-meaning attempts to protect her daughters from emotional trauma, their mother didn't teach them anything about their father's work and philosophy.
Shabazz was in college when she read The Autobiography of Malcolm X for the first time.
The author obviously idolizes her mother, who was always studying and working hard to provide for her daughters in style, but also indicates that she was controlling-even to the point of selecting Shabazz's college and dismissing her daughter's expressed desire to attend a black university.
Teens who have been inspired by the life and speeches of Malcolm X will undoubtedly find this memoir interesting.Joyce Fay Fletcher, Rippon Middle School, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The third of the six daughters of assassinated Black Muslim leader Malcolm X (or Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) and Dr. 
Betty Dean Sanders, Shabazz reminisces about her childhood and life in the 32 years between her father's being gunned down while speaking at Harlem's Audubon Ballroom in 1965 and her mother's dying of injuries suffered in a house fire in 1997.
Two years old when her father died, Ilyasah has only a few remembered moments with him, but she offers much more to correct what she views as the usually fragmented and false understanding of him and his contribution to America and the world.
While promoting her father's legacy as a messenger of black self-assurance, self-respect, and self-defense, Ilyasah also argues that great men marry great women, for her true hero is her mother.
"Mommy" dominates the narrative, and her often hard-learned lessons carry the character and course of the journey toward the self-identity shared here.
This interesting memoir, the first by any of the children of Malcolm X, is valuable for rounding out our understanding of the man and his milieu.
Recommended for collections on African American biography.
Thomas J.
Davis, Arizona State Univ., TempeCopyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Despite the title of this book and its cover photo--which depicts the author in the arms of her father, Malcolm X--this memoir tells us more about growing up as the daughter of Betty Shabazz. 
Sheltered by her powerful mother, Ilyasah Shabazz attends predominantly white, private schools, and although she is raised Muslim, she is unschooled in racial matters.
As a well-connected young adult, she hangs out with celebrities and flirts with modeling, acting, teaching, entrepreneurship, and work as a publicist--the same stuff we might expect from the child of a TV executive, not of black activists.
Ilyasah's struggle is to come into her own as a woman (significantly and disconcertingly, she calls her mother "Mommy" throughout) and to make sense of the legacy of her father, who was assassinated in front of her when she was only two.
Measured against even snippets of Malcolm X's words and deeds, and Betty Shabazz's tireless sacrifice, self-improvement, and activism, their daughter's experiences and the lessons she offers seem relatively mundane, but that's a story in itself.
This short, anecdotal book is not terribly well written, but between the lines a portrait emerges of the weighty burden of expectations on the children of famous people, how the expectation to do something can make them falter.
Keir GraffCopyright © American Library Association.
All rights reserved

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“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.”–MAYA ANGELOU“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.”–BEBE MOORE CAMPBELL Author of Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine and What You Owe Me“IT OFFERS CANDID INSIGHTS INTO THE LIVES OF ILYASAH AND HER SISTERS.”–Ebony

From the Inside Flap

"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, learning to do the hustle.
She was a different color from other kids at camp and yet, years later as a young woman, was not radical enough for her college classmates.
Her story is, sbove all else, a tribute to a mother of almost unimaginable forbearance, a woman who, "from that day at the Audubon when she heard the shots and threw her body on [ours, never] stopped shielding her children."

From the Back Cover

“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.”–MAYA ANGELOU“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.”–BEBE MOORE CAMPBELL Author of Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine and What You Owe Me“IT OFFERS CANDID INSIGHTS INTO THE LIVES OF ILYASAH AND HER SISTERS.”–Ebony

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.From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

AftermathI 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 engagements and interviews.
In between all this activity, he worked hard to find new housing for all of us.He knew the end was coming soon.Percy Sutton tells a story of sitting in the backseat of a car with Daddy and two armed guards around this time.
Mr.
Sutton asked my father if it bothered him being surrounded by people with guns.My father said to him, “Have I told you the story of Omar the slave? Omar said to his master, ‘Give me your fastest horse, I’m going to escape the Face of Death.’ It being a slave belief that if you rode by day and got through the day with the swiftness of the horse, you were safe by night.
There were seven paths down which Omar could go.
He started down the center path, pulled the horse back.
Started to the left, and pulled back again.
Only a short distance down the third path stood the Face of Death.
Death said to Omar, ‘For three days I’ve waited at this spot for you to come.
Why has it taken you so long?’ ” And then Minister Malcolm said, “So you see, counselor, you can twist, you can turn, but there’s destiny.”Meanwhile we stayed with the Wallaces and waited for Daddy.
The NYPD sat outside the Wallace home and followed us everywhere.
They even followed the Wallace children to school, until Gail Wallace and her brothers gave them the slip by sneaking out the back window.
They said they were there to help but no one believed it.
What they were really doing was shadowing my father, casing him and his movements, preparing for February 21.On February 20 Daddy came by the Wallace house to check on us.
As he was leaving, Brother Thomas asked what he could do to help.
Our exhausted-looking father shook his head.
“It’s something unseen all around me,” he told Brother Thomas.
Then he climbed into his car and drove away.“A funny feeling came over me hearing that,” Mrs.
Wallace told me years later.
“I felt like I was seeing this man for the last time.”So when Daddy called that morning of February 21 and asked us to come hear him speak, Mommy was happy.
She loved Daddy and missed him and wanted to be present for support.
She hurried about, dressing herself and us, then Brother Thomas drove us into Manhattan and up to Harlem to the Audubon.
We arrived just after noon.After we left the telephone rang and Mrs.
Wallace answered it.
It was Wallace Muhammad, son of Elijah Muhammad.
Elijah Muhammad was the spiritual leader of the Nation of Islam, the man my father had once credited with saving his life and the man whose followers my father now suspected wanted to take it.
Wallace Muhammad was agitated.
He said he’d been trying to reach my father for days.
He wanted to warn him, to tell him they were going to kill him soon.
He did not say who “they” were.Brother Thomas dropped us off at the front door and went to find a parking space.
I cannot begin to imagine my mother’s feelings as she ushered us into that ballroom to hear her husband speak.
My mother loved my father deeply, and she admired his commitment to changing the lives of black people in America and throughout the world.
But she also knew the toll that work had taken on him.
She knew how draining was the constant traveling, how wearing were the harassment by the FBI and the intimidation by the members of the Nation of Islam.
She knew how deeply pained he was by the attack on the house where his wife and daughters lay asleep.
She knew how tired he was, and she knew that as much as she wanted to make it all better, she couldn’t.
No one could.I imagine my mother walked into that ballroom full of joy, pride, anxiety, love, and not a little fear.And she walked out shattered in a way that could never, ever be repaired.I write all this as though I remember, which I do not, Allah be praised.
I was two years old, going on three, and though I surely felt confusion and fear at the time, I have no memory of any of it.
From these experiences I carry only a dislike of endings, a lingering uneasiness with good-byes.
My oldest sister, Attallah, was six years old when my father was assassinated; Qubilah was four.
How much, exactly, they remember is something we never discussed while growing up.
Somehow Mommy kept us so busy and fulfilled we never talked about it, or maybe it was just too hard.
It wasn’t until recently, just a few years ago, that I finally asked Qubilah if she remembered that day.
I was in graduate school working on a paper and she was visiting me.
We began discussing the condition of African people throughout the world, and from there the conversation turned to Daddy and his work.Yes, she said.
She remembered him and she remembered that day in all its confusion and terror.
She remembered noise and screaming and confusion and Daddy not coming home.I didn’t push her on her memories.
Really, what more was there to say?It was a fairly mild February afternoon.
Outside the Audubon, children played on the street while Christian men and women strolled home from Sunday church services.
My mother took us girls and went inside the auditorium, which was quickly filling up.
More than four hundred people, many of them non-Muslim, had come to hear Malcolm X speak.
He had promised earlier to present the charter of his newly formed Organization of Afro-American Unity on that day, but the drafting committee had fallen behind, the charter was unfinished, and he was upset.
My father did not like to break his word.We sat right up front in a reserved booth near the stage where we could see our father clearly and be sure he saw us.
We settled in; my mother took off our snowsuits.
My father was backstage, preparing to speak.
The ballroom grew full.
Time passed.
The program was late getting started because they were waiting for two invited guests, the Reverend Dr.
Milton Galamison, a civil rights activist, and Ralph Cooper, a popular disk jockey.
After awhile my father’s assistant, Benjamin X, took the stage.
He spoke for about twenty minutes.
He talked about a ship crossing the ocean, about the storms and trade winds and doldrums and other delays that might keep even a well-captained ship from reaching its destina-tion on time, alluding to the delayed charter.
Then he introduced Daddy.From the Hardcover edition.

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Comment List (Total:13)

  •     Fantastic book. Very well written.I strongly recommend this excellent literature to all.
  •     In 235 pages, Ms. Shabazz takes the reader on a compelling and intimate journey that has not been revealed prior to this book. She shares her personal coming of age story. Some of the details released were extremely sensitive, yet I imagine a "healing" came from revealing them.She humbly discusses the priviledged life that she and her sisters had. This consisted of attending predominately white private schools, socializing with Hollywood stars, dating professional athletes, membership in Links, Jack and Jill of America, various housekeepers etc. Her life has been the total opposite of what I would have imagined it to be.In reference to her father (Malcolm X) she does not repeat his autobiography. Instead, she uses this area wisely to clear up some myths and misconceptions about him and his parents (The Littles). For example, Rev. Earl Little was a Baptist minister who helped organize the Marcus Garvey United Negro Improvement Association. Louise Norton Little spoke five languages, taught her children to sing the alphabet in French and was the recording secretary for the association that her husband helped organize. This information helped prove that Malcolm X was insightful, disciplined and educated by his parents and NOT Elijah Muhammad and The Nation. She says that Mr. Muhammad helped Malcolm X grow by clearing away some the negative seeds of discouragement planted by white school teachers in his youth which led to his petty crimes etc. She shares other insightful information that gives the reader more insight into the articulate and charming Malcolm from his youth. I was shocked to learn how old Ilyasah Shabazz was when she first visited her father's grave. Find out about Malcolm X's siblings that were a part of the Nation too.In reference to her mother (Dr. Betty Shabazz) this story shows how much she admired her mother. It is a moving tribute to both parents. Any struggling female single parent that reads this, can't help but gain inspiration and motivation to better themselves. Dr. Betty Shabazz's life shows determintaion to advance in education, rear well rounded children and be the keeper of her husband's legacy.I attended her Houston Book Signing. She was very humble. It was obvious that this book was a must for several reasons. She needed to shatter the myths and notions of what people assume a daughter of Malcolm X to be. As she read warmly from page 95...I glanced around the room and saw many smiling faces. She touched on a radio caller from earlier in the morning who all but demanded that she lend her name to support a racial situation that was brewing in a section of Houston. She firmly reiterated that she needs to fulfill her purpose in this life...not her father's. She promised that the book would clear up all the media myths surrounding her nephew that set the fire, which eventually claimed the life of Dr. Betty Shabazz. The book fell short of answering my questions about her nephew, but I can understand why she probably opted to approach that topic in her selected manner. At any rate, this book is a must read. Do some high school grads a favor and give them this book, along with The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Not only will they get a valuable history lesson, but they will walk away with the deep message that education is important...the key to financial security, independence etc...and unlike fame, favor, wealth...once acquired, it can't be taken away. Find out what Ms. Shabazz feels was her father's greatest gift to African Americans. Discover Malcolm X as a loving father who read poetry to his girls and a husband. See 16 pages of never seen before black and white photos from her personal collection. Take a peek into what is was actually like to grow up "X".
  •     Good Evening.I purchased the book from Google play in January 2016. Reading it didn't make me love and respect her parents (that was sealed since the age of 12).
  •     Every home should have a copy of this book
  •     great book
  •     Excellent book about love, family, and sacrifice! You will not want to put this book down.~Darlene Aiken, Author of How to be a Young Lady: Your Total Guide for Being...
  •     Very good book
  •     I commend Ilyasah Shabazz for her courage to publish her memoirs in Growing Up X. It is clearly an act of bravery for anyone to share intimate thoughts with the world. I found it surprising that she led a rather normal, non-eventful life in Mt Vernon, New York because I, like many others, perceived her (and her sisters) as the legacy of two remarkable parents-thus making her destined to supercede their combined greatness. Naturally, this is an unfair and often cruel expectation to place on children of infamous parents and Ilyasah shared how her mother worked hard to shield and protect them from the burden of proof. She also enlightens the reader by saying she often would not to tell people of her parentage when she first met them for just those reasons.The memoir, which is largely a tribute to her mother, chronicles Ilyasah's life from her father's death to her mother's death. She begins by mentioning the Little Family (her father's family) kept their distance in early years and how her immediate family was largely sustained by members of the local mosque, close friends, her mother's relatives, and high profile celebrities who showed her mother kindness and support in a time of need. Despite the generosities of others, it was her mother's resolve and personal sacrifices that kept the family together. She rehashes childhood memories of private school, summer camp, sisterhood bonding, and coming of age into adulthood. She speaks of her first kiss, her juvenile experiences with prejudice/racism, her loss of virginity from rape, the many career changes, and the loves of her life--one of which was an NBA player that she thought she might marry. These memories are simplistically and rather briefly written in a matter-of-factly type manner-almost like it's a series of flashbacks. The only exception is the heart-wrenching section where Ilyasah tells of her mother's battle for life after the fire set by Ilyasah's nephew, Malcolm, Quibillah's son. I felt her pain through the pages of the novel and my heart goes out to her family.With the exception of a few events, I found Ilyasah's life to be quite ordinary and found myself wanting to learn more about the "holes" in the novel. For example, she mentions that she never had visited her father's gravesite until she was an adult in college. In fact, she did not know the gravesite's location upon arriving at the cemetery and just wandered around until she found it. I suppose I wanted to know why they never visited his grave as a family unit, even for Father's Day (considering all attempts made by her mother for a 'normal' mainstreamed life). The only explanation offered was that it would be too painful for her mother.I found it equally extraordinary that her mother hires a home tutor to supplement their private school education ensuring they are properly and completely taught African history, Arabic, etc. but then Ilyasah admits to having to learn of her father's political ideologies, beliefs, and struggles by taking a humanities class on Malcolm X in college. It is only then that she comes to truly appreciate and comprehend his influence and effect on society. Surely since her father has his honorable place in American history, it almost seemed almost like an injustice to neglect this part of her heritage for so long. Despite what this reader thinks, I am sure Mrs. Shabazz, or "Mommy" as she is referred to throughout the book, had her reasons. I am not second-guessing her [Mrs. Shabazz] judgment, just asking for clarification that is not readily apparent in the book. Ilyasah tries to explain by stating that her mother taught them that he [Malcolm] was "Daddy" at home, nothing more and nothing less, which is totally justified.I, too, was disappointed that the book concludes at Mrs. Shabazz's death because I ended up have more questions than when I started about Ilyasah and her family. I wanted to learn more about the Little family, Quibillah's FBI encounter (conspiracy to assassinate Louis Farrakhan), her sister's lives, and Malcom (the grandson). From my understanding Ilyasah is working on a second novel about her parents, perhaps my questions will be answered in the upcoming body of work. ...
  •     The daughter of Malcolm X, murdered because of his beliefs, tells about the impact and loss this had on her life and the lives of her mother and sisters.
  •     GREAT MAN!!
  •     Easy to read and uplifting
  •     Very interested
  •     How does one live up to writing a book while being the offspring of legends? How does one do that? How is one supposed to live up to the expectations? I see that Ms.
 

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