cover image Betty Before X

Betty Before X

Ilyasah Shabazz, with Renée Watson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-30610-6

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. [em]Agent: Jason Anthony, Massie & McQuilkin. (Jan.) [/em]