MALCOLM by Bruce Perry


A Life of the Man Who Changed Black America
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 Perry (ed., The Last Speeches of Malcolm X--not reviewed) uses hundreds of interviews, government records, and Malcolm X's own speeches and letters to present a lively, critical biography of the black nationalist hero. Unlike the politically correct model-parents in The Autobiography of Malcolm X (actually written by Alex Haley), Perry says Malcolm X's irresponsible father and dictatorial yet emotionally feeble mother raised him in a ``loveless'' family. Malcolm X's views on race began to form as his brothers ridiculed him as ``a freak of nature'' for his light skin and hair. Perry praises his subject's self-discipline, oratorical skills, and appeal but underlines his deep insecurity, misogyny, and self- destructive tendencies. From his childhood scrapes to the day of his assassination, Malcolm X, Perry repeatedly asserts, defended others ``with a determination that had been completely absent when he had been called to defend himself.'' During his career as the national spokesman for the Nation of Islam, and his subsequent organizing work after his split with Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X's success, Perry says, was due in part to self-hatred, which he drew on to ``liberate his ardent followers from the kind of conflict about skin color that had afflicted him all his life.'' A complex portrait that successfully illuminates the inner conflicts that drove Malcolm X to greatness and destruction.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-88268-103-6
Page count: 550pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991