29 March, 2010

Book Of Note

Internationally, millions know of and have read Alex Haley's Kunta Kinte 'Roots: The Saga of an American Family'; but fewer know of or have read his other masterpiece: 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X'. Many, who hated or still hate Malcolm's radical beliefs and ideas, can never and will never appreciate the book. Few autobiographies have I read, are as absorbing, as saddening and as exhilarating as Haley's very well researched and brilliantly written book - from the first page to the last. No wonder TIME magazine named it One of the Top Ten Works of Nonfiction of the last Century and rated it as a must read.

What makes the book so absorbing and fascinating is not only Alex Haley's superb style of writing and telling a story; but, Malcolm's story is so compelling to read that once you start reading it, it is hard to put it down and stop. Malcolm's childhood and early years is no different to that of many African-Americans at that time: extremely hard. But Malcolm goes through much more: his father dies when he was still a very small boy and a few years later, his mother, after a mental breakdown, is institutionalized in a mental hospital; Malcolm, though being one of the best students in his school - drops out because one of his teachers told him that his aspiration of being a lawyer in a white-man's world, was nothing but a pipe-dream. He then takes on to the streets and becomes a thief, a hustler and goes to prison.

It is in prison, where Malcolm's transformation is almost miraculous. He skillfully learns how to read, write and understand the power of words; words that he would later use so masterfully and brilliantly. Malcolm, who was so much against religion before, then, incredibly, joins the Nation of Islam and becomes very spiritual; and stops smoking or eating pork. After his release, Malcolm inspires Cassius Clay, the greatest sportsman of all times - to become a Muslim called Muhammad Ali; Malcolm globe-trots and meets royalty, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Fidel Castro. He travels too, to Europe and several African countries and is received like a leader, meets officials and gives interviews. It is during his pilgrimage to Makkah that Macolm transforms even further - realizing that, in true Islam, all races are equal before God. This realization and his outspokenness, creates a rift between him and the Nation of Islam. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm was assassinated. Few stories are as absorbing, interesting and as mind-boggling as Malcolm X's story. And very few writers could have done as an excellent a job of writing it as Alex Haley did.