Book Reviews

Review: The Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz & Tiffany D. Jackson

This historical fiction account of Malcolm X’s adolescent years in jail is the result of Jackson’s powerful writing and the daughter of Malcolm X, Ilyasah Shabazz. While I haven’t read X: A Novel, The Awakening of Malcolm X is a powerful book about the necessity of waking up. Of seeing the world, our oppression, and the circumstances around us. Keep reading this book review to see what I thought of this unique historical fiction.


No one can be at peace until he has his freedom.

In Charlestown Prison, Malcolm Little struggles with the weight of his past. Plagued by nightmares, Malcolm drifts through days unsure of his future. Slowly, he befriends other prisoners and writes to his family. He reads all the books in the prison library, joins the debate team and the Nation of Islam. Malcolm grapples with race, politics, religion, and justice in the 1940s. And as his time in jail comes to an end, he begins to awaken — emerging from prison more than just Malcolm Little: Now, he is Malcolm X.

Here is an intimate look at Malcolm X’s young adult years. While this book chronologically follows X: A Novel, it can be read as a stand-alone historical novel that invites larger discussions on black power, prison reform, and civil rights.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: racism, assault, mentions of death row execution, mentions of suicide

The Awakening of Malcolm X asks questions about the unfairness of the injustice system, a society that looks at black men as criminals without a second glance. How the justice systems turns these men into non-human entities. How all these men need is an accusation, being in the wrong place, to have their existence questioned. And even though slavery was abolished, they’ve never been free. The release of this book is even more timely considering 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests that have re-incited these conversations.

The Awakening of Malcolm X is a story about his adolescent years in prison and the inmates he meets. It’s also about the knowledge about himself and others he gains, the slow waking up process. Full of memories that illuminate Malcolm’s life and the events that, even unknowingly, put him on his path, The Awakening of Malcolm X is an emotional story. It’s a great introduction to conversations about racism and the justice system for teens. I ended up reading it in a day because I was so captivated by Malcolm’s family memories, his life in prison, and his future.

Find The Awakening of Malcolm X on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


Have you read another YA historical fiction based on someone’s life?

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.