cover image Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam

Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam

Sonsyrea Tate. HarperOne, $22 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-06-251134-8

Freelance journalist Tate has fashioned a female coming-of-age autobiography that unveils life in the Black Muslim sect of the 1960s and '70s. She begins with a brief survey of her grandparents' involvement with Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam. Heeding this self-proclaimed prophet's call to a life of dedicated discipline, her elders, and later her mother, embark on a religious journey through black society in Washington, D.C. At first, the demand for dignity, respect for education and pride in black achievements spur these converts from traditional black churches to new awareness and contentment. As the author details her adolescence, moving from the rigors of the Black Muslim school to the laissez-faire world of public education, we see a young woman standing with one foot in a misunderstood, restrictive parochial world, and one foot about to set down in the alluringly wide-open, but dangerous, secular world. Tate is at her best in describing the two strongest influences in her life, her mother and grandmother: Both strong women engaged in spiritual quests, they lovingly guide, chide and instruct Tate through the straits of youth. A temperate and sympathetic treatment of an African American family's religious evolution, this is not a sensational expose of the Nation of Islam. While Tate's journalistic style sometimes goes flat, her insights and reminiscences, drawn against a backdrop of dramatic public events, hold the reader's interest. $40,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Jan.)