A little bit of reflection on Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

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“But sir, how can a man of your intelligence, a professor of history, who knows the value of thorough research, come here from Harvard and attack the Black Muslims, basing your conclusions on one small article?”

That quote right there, was one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book. Presenting logic and facts in an eloquent manner in his speeches, this guy was a great orator and a most determined individual, fighting for the rights of the black population in the US. I simply wanted to know more about Malcolm X. Another biography is another/a further insight on his thoughts and journey as a Black Muslim leader & human rights activist.

However, the first quarter of the book was a bit difficult for me to read. Marable made it clear that he wanted to challenge the popular and widely accepted notions on Malcolm X, both positive and negative. He wanted to go beyond what other people have done including Alex Haley, whom he thought had his own agenda. The result was a much more comprehensive and explicit work than The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told to Alex Haley. Marable’s dedication to write this book is no joke. It took him years and despite his illness, he still went on. So I admire that and respect his decision to present certain points and arguments in order to show to people that Malcolm X was indeed amazing, but not without faults. He chronicled Malcolm X’s life from a young age to the day of his assassination and even after that with great detail. He gathered points and evidences to portray the different sides of Malcolm X and the other truths of what have occurred. He was also not afraid to criticise Malcolm, his ways of dealing within his former movement, Nation of Islam (NOI) and his position in trying to solve problems facing the African-Americans in the 1960s.

As someone who looks up to scholars and researchers, there is no doubt that I was impressed, thinking about the great lengths and depths Marable has gone through to do this. Personally though, it was a bit too much sometimes. I don’t think I need to know everything about a person, because you’ll tend to find things that would make you feel uncomfortable and difficult to accept. There were things like that in the book but it wasn’t just this that made me feel uncomfortable. It was how Marable interpreted or suggested based on those details. I started to wonder if I was just too stubborn to admit the possibilities that were drawn by Marable. And then I wondered, ‘What is Marable actually trying to do by saying this stuff? Accusing others like Alex Haley’ Then I also thought, perhaps objectivity and subjectivity could exist together…whatever that means.

After going through the pages through gritted teeth during the first quarter, things got better. I was glad that I reached to the last chapter where I realized that this book was a biography after all, not ‘The Complete Life of Malcom X’. It was Marable’s take (with the help of others) on what he believed to be important factors and events surrounding Malcolm X’s life. It was his perspective, his understanding of what would be the best portrait of the man who was a hero to many, but who also had his merits and flaws. For his efforts of avoiding hearsays and attempting to make a broader and more critical picture, I truly appreciate his work, all in all.

Reading Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

I’m currently reading Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable and I’m already thinking:

  1. This is definitely a critical work & research on Malcolm X’s life, at least more than what I’ve read. Marable isn’t afraid to point out things that are not aligned to the popular notions of Malcolm X and for that, I appreciate his immense effort and hard work of creating another insight on the amazing black nationalist leader/human rights activist.
  2. I’m also feeling reminiscent of one of my favourite books, The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told to Alex Haley. A lot of quotes are taken from the former and I just miss reading Malcolm’s story from his own mouth (and imagining his charismatic tenor voice in my head)
  3. I’m feeling a bit conflicted with the way Marable describes the possibilities of other truths, the ones that Malcolm X ‘exaggerated’ or didn’t mention. E.g. ‘almost certainly’ or ‘probably’. Do I wish for him to keep some of his thoughts and assumptions of the late Malcolm X to himself? Probably.
  4. It’s pretty difficult for me to take some of this stuff since I’ve long admired Malcolm X. I’m starting to question, is there some kind of validation that Marable wanted to find? Or am I just being defensive about this? Maybe. I’m still reading. (I have to keep reminding myself that Marable was a historian and these are not mere assumptions)
  5. Reading at the part where Malcolm finally got out of prison. Things seem to be more interesting as the last paragraph ends with ‘He would see more, would travel, and he would seize the time.’

Well, I can’t wait to read more.