Manning Marable’s Malcolm: The revolutionary as human

I am undergoing a study on Black liberation this year. Im taking time off from other political work I could be doing in order to, in part, do this study because I have felt that lacking this has been a huge gap in my own intellectual development in the last few years. I think it’s important because it shapes so much of race and white supremacy in the United States and because it is one of the richest movement experiences in the US, from which so many other movements sprang. I hope that later down the road this study will help me flesh out my very underdeveloped ideas about being racialized as Muslim in the US, whether “Muslim” can even be a racial category or not, and the class composition of South Asians and Arabs in the US.

However, though I have a list of books that I want to get to eventually, there is no rhyme or reason to my study. I was drawn to Manning Marable’s biography of Malcolm X for no apparent reason, apart from all the hype and reaction surrounding its release a few months back. I think I was drawn to the book because of how formative the Autobiography “as told to” Alex Haley was on me at a very young age. I watched Spike Lee’s movie when it came out. I will date myself and admit that I was only 8 years old. My parents took me, perhaps along with my older sister, to watch the movie with another South Asian Muslim family. (I have written about the kind of place I grew up in earlier posts. The racial character of the town will become clear when I say that though I believe it was only shortly after the movie had been released, on a Sunday afternoon we were literally the only people in the movie theater.)

At the age of ten I borrowed a copy that my 16 year old sister had borrowed from a friend. I sneaked it from her room and read it over and over again. At that age I was not very careful with other peoples’ books and by the time my sister got it back, I had managed to get gum on the inside cover, among other damage. She had to buy another copy for her friend and presto! Though not done intentionally, I had my very own copy of the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

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Assata- thoughts on strength

I just finished the autobiography of Assata Shakur. I picked it up because I had been busy finishing my thesis and didn’t have much time for political reading outside of some study groups I am in, but autobiographies are usually like novels, easy to read and yet very compelling. I would read Assata while in the tub after a long day. I also picked up the book because I have been having trouble with motivation- to do political work, but to do anything at all, really. I was spending hours watching tv and reading fashion blogs, things that I think are okay to do, but not when they’re used to escape reality for hours and hours at a time, as I was doing. I was hoping her example would steel my resolve to be an active political person.

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