Betty Before X
Betty Before X

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Annotation: This biography of Malcolm X's future wife, Betty, covers her early years, from childhood in Detroit to her first encounters with the Civil Rights Movement.
Catalog Number: #152705
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 248 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-374-30610-9 Perma-Bound: 0-605-99919-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-374-30610-6 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-99919-0
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017019587
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Ilyasah Shabazz and Watson breathe life into a lightly fictionalized account of the childhood of her mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz. The story spans from 1945 to 1948, bookended by the life-changing experience of seeing lynching firsthand in Georgia, and the beating of Leon Mosley, a black 15-year-old, by a white police officer in Detroit. When the aunt who raised her dies, Betty leaves the segregated South to live with her birth mother in Detroit. Their fractious relationship forms the spine of the book, gaining complexity when Betty finds a more loving home with another family in the neighborhood. Betty finds purpose volunteering with the Housewives' League, encouraging black women to spend their money in black-owned and black-staffed businesses. Short chapters and lucid prose make for an accessible read, with key details bringing the era to life for contemporary young readers. Extensive back matter provides further context for educational use. The lessons from Betty's life are abundant: forgiveness, gratitude for life's blessings, and planting seeds for the future. Her response to hardship and injustice is timeless.
Horn Book
[=With]Ilyasah Shabazz's X: A Novel told her father Malcolm X's story; this affecting novel covers Shabazz's mother's life from age eleven to just before high school. Readers watch Betty struggle with the harsh realities both of her family situation and of the larger community in 1940s black Detroit. In an engaging first-person voice, the authors portray Betty as a relatable preteen while laying the groundwork for her remarkable later life. Timeline.
Publishers Weekly
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. Agent: Jason Anthony, Massie & McQuilkin. (Jan.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 46 This novel centering the girl who would become the wife of Malcolm X and accomplish much on her own after his assassination reminds readers that even legendary figures are real people. Betty Dean Sanders was born in 1934 in Pinehurst, GA. At barely a year old, she was taken from her mother, Ollie Mae, because there was evidence of abuse. She lived with her grandmother and aunt until she was seven. When Aunt Fannie Mae died, Betty was sent to Detroit to live again with Ollie Mae. The mother-daughter relationship was never comfortable, and when there was more abuse, Betty was taken in, at the age of 11, by Lorenzo and Helen Malloy, who raised her until she left for college. The authors highlight Betty's personal trials and those of the civil rights struggle. Emotional but not melodramatic, the facts and events speak for themselves. Readers will acutely feel the confusion and pain Betty experiences with her mother, her anger at the treatment of African Americans, and the hopefulness instilled by Helen Malloy and her Housewives' League as they boycott businesses which will not hire blacks. There is also the warmth of Betty's community, the love of her sisters, the peace she finds in her faith, and the joy of her accomplishments. VERDICT An excellent work of historical fiction that will illuminate and spark discussion. Pair this with Shabazz's X: A Novel for a well-rounded picture of the couple and their times. Katherine Koenig, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
A passion for social justice blossoms during the middle school years for the girl who grew up to become Dr. Betty Shabazz.Loved but unwanted by her mother, 11-year-old Betty finds solace in friends and church. In 1945 Detroit, Betty's African-American church community is a hub for activism in the face of Jim Crow racism, police brutality, and economic inequality. With renowned guests such as Thurgood Marshall and Paul Robeson coming to speak and perform, Betty and her friends are swept up in the fervor and demand for social justice that would become a movement. They volunteer for the Housewives' League, a group that encourages the community to give its dollars to black-owned and -employing businesses. But the movement is also personal for Betty, who struggles to find her place in a world that treats brown-skinned black girls as lesser—less beautiful, less worthy, less deserving. Authored by her daughter Ilyasah Shabazz in collaboration with Watson, this moving fictional account of the early life of the late civil rights leader and widow of Malcolm X draws on the recollections of family and friends. The result is a heart-rending imagining of Shabazz's personal challenges as well as a rare, intimate look at the complex roots of the American civil rights movement. A personal, political, and powerful imagining of the early life of the late activist. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
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Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal Starred Review (Fri Dec 01 00:00:00 CST 2017)
ALA Booklist (Fri Dec 01 00:00:00 CST 2017)
Horn Book (Wed Aug 01 00:00:00 CDT 2018)
Publishers Weekly
Word Count: 34,656
Reading Level: 4.9
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.9 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 193861 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.3 / points:9.0 / quiz:Q72789
Lexile: 810L

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty's house doesn't quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can't shake the feeling that her mother doesn't want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born. Inspired by Betty's real life--but expanded upon and fictionalized through collaboration with novelist Ren e Watson--Ilyasah Shabazz illuminates four poignant years in her mother's childhood with this book, painting an inspiring portrait of a girl overcoming the challenges of self-acceptance and belonging that will resonate with young readers today. Backmatter included. This title has Common Core connections.

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