Betty before X / Ilyasah Shabazz ; with Renée Watson.

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    • Publication Information:
      First edition.
    • Abstract:
      Summary: Raised by her aunt until she is six, Betty, who will later marry Malcolm X, joins her mother and stepfamily in 1940s Detroit, where she learns about the civil rights movement.
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Booklist Reviews 2017 December #1

Ilyasah Shabazz and Watson breathe life into a lightly fictionalized account of the childhood of her mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz. The story spans from 1945 to 1948, bookended by the life-changing experience of seeing lynching firsthand in Georgia, and the beating of Leon Mosley, a black 15-year-old, by a white police officer in Detroit. When the aunt who raised her dies, Betty leaves the segregated South to live with her birth mother in Detroit. Their fractious relationship forms the spine of the book, gaining complexity when Betty finds a more loving home with another family in the neighborhood. Betty finds purpose volunteering with the Housewives' League, encouraging black women to spend their money in black-owned and black-staffed businesses. Short chapters and lucid prose make for an accessible read, with key details bringing the era to life for contemporary young readers. Extensive back matter provides further context for educational use. The lessons from Betty's life are abundant: forgiveness, gratitude for life's blessings, and planting seeds for the future. Her response to hardship and injustice is timeless. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2018 Fall

Ilyasah Shabazz's X: A Novel told her father Malcolm X's story; this affecting novel covers Shabazz's mother's life from age eleven to just before high school. Readers watch Betty struggle with the harsh realities both of her family situation and of the larger community in 1940s black Detroit. In an engaging first-person voice, the authors portray Betty as a relatable preteen while laying the groundwork for her remarkable later life. Timeline. Copyright 2018 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2018 #2

Ilyasah Shabazz's X: A Novel (rev. 5/15; written with Kekla Magoon) told the story of her father Malcolm X's young adulthood and journey to self; Betty Before X is centered on the childhood and coming-of-age of her mother, Betty Shabazz. Set mostly in the black neighborhoods of 1940s Detroit, this affecting novel covers Betty's life from age eleven—when, after one too many beatings, she left her mother's house ?to live with a couple from church, the Malloys—to just before the start of high school. Readers watch Betty struggle with the harsh realities both of her own situation and of the larger community, particularly the racial injustice she witnesses and experiences. But she learns to count her blessings ("Mrs. Malloy was right. Focusing on the good makes my heart hurt less") and pushes through the pain to keep trying to make her world better. She joins an organization that promotes black-owned businesses; she finds ways to help her best friend's financially struggling family; she persists in nurturing her relationship with her unloving mother. The authors tell Betty's story in an engaging and accessible first-person voice; they manage to portray Betty as a relatable pre-teen who likes to dance to Billy Eckstine records and read Ebony magazine even as they lay the groundwork for the remarkable woman she will grow up to be. Extensive back matter includes an author's note about Dr. Shabazz; more about 1940s Detroit and the Bethel AME Church; and information about the real people on whom many of the novel's characters are based. martha v. parravano Copyright 2018 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

PW Reviews 2017 October #5

The daughter of Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X, Shabazz (X: A Novel) joins with Watson (Piecing Me Together) to tell this absorbing fictionalized account of her mother's formative years. In a straightforward but engaging narrative voice, Betty describes living with three maternal figures, who offer different strategies for coping with life's difficulties. When Betty sees the victims of a lynching as a child in Georgia, Aunt Fannie Mae tells her, "Baby, some things we just have to take to the Lord." In Detroit, her stern biological mother, Ollie Mae, tries to shield her from knowledge of race riots ("You have enough years ahead of you to know pain, Betty Dean"). After a beating, Betty moves in with Mrs. Malloy, an inspiring leader in the Housewives League. In response to her growing awareness of racism, Betty ponders Malloy's philosophy ("Have faith in the Lord and find the good and praise it") and develops an affinity for community organizing. History comes alive in this illuminating portrayal of the early life of this civil rights activist, which is bolstered by substantial endnotes. Ages 10–14. Agent: Jason Anthony, Massie & McQuilkin. (Jan.)

Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.