Manning Marable, the African-American author and historian whom the New York Times called "a leading scholar of black history," passed away two weeks ago on April 1, at age 60. His last book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was published three days later, on April 4. In this guest post, BookPage contributor Ron Wynn reviews the book, which occupied Marable for more than a decade and is now an integral part of his legacy.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
By Manning Marable
Viking, April 4, 2011
Noted historian and scholar Dr. Manning Marable spent much of his professional career examining the impact and extraordinary life of Malcolm X. Marable, who helped create Columbia University's Black Studies program in 1993, spent two decades compiling the material in his extensive (592 pages) new book Malcolm X: A Life Of Reinvention. The book is proving as controversial as its subject, especially given the amount of new information not included in any prior Malcolm X biography.
Bombshell allegations include the contention that much of esteemed author Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X is at best erroneous and at worse bogus. He characterizes Malcolm's marriage to Betty Shabazz as troubled from the start, more an arrangement than a romantic union. Marable also disputes prevailing notions about Malcolm X's supposed transformation following a pilgrimage to Mecca. While acknowledging he abandoned the separatist rhetoric he'd previously championed as a member of the Nation of Islam, Manning contends Malcolm remained a political and social radical rather than the benevolent voice of brotherhood and understanding that's been his post-Mecca image.
The section generating the most public attention covers Malcolm's assassination. Marable maintains that the original investigation was seriously flawed, and the guilty parties have not been caught. Indeed, the book names 72-year-old Al-Mustafa Shabazz (formerly known as William Bradley) of Newark as one of the killers. Shabazz has denied any involvement and threatened legal action against the publishers. Marable even gets current Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to speak on the record regarding whether he had any involvement in the assassination (Farrakhan vigorously denies it).
While Marable's book has its critics (most notably Betty Shabazz's two daughters as well as some other Malcolm X biographers) his research seems solid. Sadly, he died two weeks ago at 60, three days before Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention was released. Hopefully the book will stimulate not only plenty of discussion, but also ample re-investigation and scrutiny into Malcolm X’s murder.
Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry—also known as the Author Enablers—will blog about writing and publishing on The Book Case once a month.
To be a writer, one must be someone who loves words. This doesn’t mean writers are required to get degrees in philology or etymology or be grammarians (though a little knowledge of all these fields helps); rather, it is the interest in and attention to words and sentences, to how we communicate by these means, that sets writers apart from, say, train engineers. (Though Sam knew a train engineer who loved writing—a preacher who had lost his vocation—but that is another story.)
But how do we keep our own writing fresh? The primary way, of course, is to read; writers must be readers. But sometimes we need other stimulation besides reading our favorite novels or histories or comic books. Sometimes we need the help of an accessible, brilliant teacher to make us think anew about words and writing.
Word Catcher by Phil Cousineau offers just such an opportunity. This pocket-sized, accessible book is packed with information about strange words you’ve probably never encountered; words you though you understood but that turn out to have a wild, interesting background; and just plain fun words. For instance, kinephentom is the term for that “weird phenomenon of the wheels of a bike appearing to spin backwards.” Who knew the lowly pretzel was originally designed to resemble the folded arms of a praying monk? And what about “flizzen,” which sounds like it was invented by J. K Rowling and means “to laugh with every muscle in the face”?
Word Catcher is a book to keep beside your dictionary or bedside to keep your writer’s mind growing, thinking, and laughing.
Veterans Day has been an official holiday in the United States since 1938. Our November issue has a roundup of new titles to remember the soldiers who fought in battles past and present, but there are plenty more in our archives—so we've compiled a list of some memorable military histories. Do you have a favorite?
20th Century Battlefields by Peter and Dan Snow
Medal of Honor by Peter Collier, photography by Nick Del Calzo
The Bedford Boys by Alex Kershaw
The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam
Franklin and Winston by Jon Meacham
Now the Drum of War by Robert Roper
Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour by Joseph Persico
11 Days in December by Stanley Weintraub
Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
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