I guess if I had to pick one non~fiction book that had the most profound affect on me it would have to be The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X. The first time I read it I think I was about 13 or 14 years old and I just remember being totally engrossed in the story. For years, I’d only heard the traditional story of the Civil Rights Movement:
Rosa Parks was a nice older woman who was tired, so she refused to give up her seat and was arrested. As a result of her arrest, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others staged a bus boycott. The end….
As I got a little bit older, I’d hear rumblings about a man named Malcolm X but there were never any details. He was always whispered about ~ “that militant”, “an ex~con”, “by any means necessary”…. Those were the code words, but no one would ever say exactly why he was so universally disliked by both blacks and whites. I wanted to know the deal. So I read his book.
Something within me resonated as I read the story of this willful, red~headed black boy struggling to find his place in the world. I was, at that time, a willful~red~headed~yellow~skinned~freckle~faced girl who was struggling to find my place too. I loved reading about his escapades on the trains, his encounters with Redd Foxx, etc. It was so exciting ~ his life as a hustler, etc. But I also identified with his desire to connect with something bigger than himself. But more than anything else, I understood his growing frustration with the world around him.
I was coming of age when Spike Lee was producing movies like School Daze and Do the Right Thing. People were talking about divesting from South Africa. Nelson Mandela was sitting in prison. It was all too much for my young mind to handle.
As I read his words, I learned that he wasn’t violent for the sake of being violent, he was reacting to the violence that was surrounding him. He was growing tired of watching his brothers and sisters get attacked by dogs just for the right to be treated with the same dignity with which all people should be treated.
Two of my favorite quotes by Malcolm X are:
“My Alma Mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”
“Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if anyone puts a hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”
What non~fiction book had the greatest impact on you? Why?