11. The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

I want to say before I go on that I have never previously told anyone my sordid past in detail. I haven't done it now to sound as though I might be proud of how bad, how evil, I was. But people are always speculating—why am I as I am? To understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. […] The full story is the best way that I know to have it seen, and understood, that I had sunk to the very bottom of the American white man's society when—soon now, in prison—I found Allah and the religion of Islam and it completely transformed my life. (ch. 9)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley) emerges from a specific time and place and yet, despite feeling very much of that moment, still resonates with issues that American culture is dealing with today—and is still a powerfully written book. Chris and Suzanne discuss its historical context, the formal questions of autobiography, writing to be read by wildly different audiences, conversion narratives, and what Malcolm X might have made of today’s America.

Show Notes.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. (Weirdly, there doesn’t seem to be an audiobook?!)

Alex Haley’s Playboy interview with Malcolm X, which led to the book.

50 Years Later, The Autobiography of Malcolm X Is Still a Must-Read.

Solving for X: Malcolm X and White Readers, an article which is at times incisive, at times problematic.

The Explosive Chapter Left Out of Malcolm X’s Autobiography (with images of the co-edited manuscript).

A recent exhibit of the unpublished chapters: Only After the Deepest Darkness: The “Lost” Chapter & Manuscript of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Next episode: Moby-Dick [Gutenberg, Librivox].

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