X: A Novel Summary & Study Guide

Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
This Study Guide consists of approximately 42 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of X.
This section contains 827 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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X: A Novel Summary & Study Guide Description

X: A Novel Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Shabazz, Ilyasah with Magoon, Kekla. X: A Novel. Candlewick Press, 2015.”

The novel begins in Lansing, Michigan in 1940, where 15-year-old Malcolm Little is boarding a bus to move to Boston, where he will be moving in with his half-sister Ella. Malcolm has been living in foster care because his mother has recently been committed to a mental institution, and his father is dead. Both of his parents were activists for African American rights, and Malcolm believes this led to their downfall. His father, Earl Little, was pushed in front of a streetcar by the Ku Klux Klan, and his mother Louise had been under government surveillance, culminating in her being forcibly committed. On the bus, Malcolm meets a fellow traveler, an African American coal miner named Earl Willis, who warns Malcolm to stick close to him, as it is unsafe for a black teenager to be traveling across country by himself. While riding through Pennsylvania, Malcolm sees the body of a lynched man hanging from a tree. This reminds Malcolm of his father's death, and the racism he has already witnessed in his own young life, particularly being called the n-word by a teacher and told he could never be a lawyer because of his skin color.

Malcolm arrives in Boston and explores the city. Ella lives in Sugar Hill, a middle class, mixed-race neighborhood, but Malcolm finds himself drawn to Roxbury, a neighborhood down the hill full of jazz clubs and black hipsters in zoot suits. Ella wants Malcolm to focus on his education, but he begins spending time with a hipster named Shorty who introduces him to life in Roxbury and gets him a job at a club called the Roseland Ballroom. Here Malcolm begins selling marijuana to the patrons and meets a white woman named Sophia, whom he begins courting. Malcolm straightens his hair and buys his own zoot suit, and begins drinking and smoking marijuana regularly. When Ella learns that he is dating Sophia, she is appalled, and Malcolm moves in with Shorty so he does not have to follow her strict rules. He steals a necklace to give to Sophia, and realizes that he is edging ever farther away from the ideals of education and empowerment espoused by his parents, and now his sister. While walking near Boston Harbor, Malcolm and Sophia are assault by three racists who do not approve of their relationship.

Sophia keeps her distance from Malcolm after the assault, and Malcolm begins working on a passenger train that travels between Boston and Harlem. He quickly falls in love with Harlem and its celebration of black culture, and decides to move there. In Harlem, Malcolm falls in with a bad crowd and continues to escalate his criminal acts, selling marijuana, associating with pimps and prostitutes, and ultimately working for West Indian Archie, a menacing man in charge of the numbers game (an informal and illegal lottery system). Malcolm briefly returns to Lansing to visit his siblings, and tries to impress them with his stories of drugs and crime, and they are shocked and dismayed. They cannot believe how far he has drifted from the belief system of respectability and empowerment under which they were raised. Back in Harlem, Malcolm cannot keep up with the numbers game because he is getting high on the job, and he learns that Archie wants to kill him. As he formulates a plan to kill Archie first, he is rescued by Shorty who heard he was in trouble.

Shorty takes Malcolm back to Boston, where he is reunited with Sophia, though she is now married. Sophia tells Malcolm that a lot of her friends that live in the suburbs are out of town for the holidays, and suggests they burglarize some of their houses. Malcolm agrees, and they bring Shorty along to help. At one of the houses, Malcolm steals a watch, only to discover it is broken. When he takes the watch to a repair shop, the shopkeeper recognizes that it is stolen and alerts the police. Malcolm is arrested. At his trial, Sophia testifies again Malcolm and Shorty, and pretends she was a naive bystander to their plan. Malcolm believes he is given a harsher sentence because of the implication that he took advantage of a white woman.

In prison, Malcolm is upset about his fate and prone to violent outbursts until he meets a fellow prisoner named Bembry who encourages him to read. Bembry gives him a book by civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois that reminds Malcolm of his parents and their beliefs. Malcolm also writes a letter to Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, who writes back encouraging him to leave the past behind him and start fresh. Malcolm decides to do just that, recommitting himself to the ideals of empowerment on which he was raised, and christening himself “Malcolm X” (348).

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This section contains 827 words
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