The exuberant, moving and tragic life of an African-American heroine.
The Washington PostRickford has crafted his book from the voluminous scholarship on Malcolm X, as well as from interviews with Shabazz family friends such as Maya Angelou, Dick Gregory, Percy Sutton, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Haki Madhubuti and Sonia Sanchez. The biography also includes reflections (used sparingly and to poignant effect) of some of the Shabazz daughters. Even though it is short on analysis of the complex psyche of women who have cast their lot with the Nation of Islam, Betty Shabazz is still a vital addition to the brooding and bloody Black Muslim saga. Evelyn C. White
Publishers WeeklyAs much an exceptionally well-culled oral history of mid-century black radicalism as it is a sympathetic, evenhanded look at its subject, this first biography of Dr. Shabazz makes it compellingly clear that the widow of Malcolm X was an inspiring force in her own right. Rickford (Spoken Soul), a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, writes in a straightforward reportorial style as concise and analytical as it is breezy and accessible. He draws together the multiple strands of Shabazz's life by quoting an impressive range of firsthand sources, both friendly and skeptical, and presenting their comments with a judicious disinterest that well serves his clear admiration of his subject. After a scattered childhood that landed her among loving foster parents in Detroit and a formative stint at Tuskegee Institute, the 23-year-old Betty Dean Sandlin, Brooklyn nursing student, married 32-year-old Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X in 1958, and lost him seven years later. The manner in which Rickford depicts Malcolm and Betty's finally very different forms of radicalism and faith is central to the book and ends up as a nuanced reckoning of black militancy's toll on its soldiers. The second half details Betty's years after Malcolm's murder, centered on her hard-won 1975 doctorate and professorship at CUNY's Medgar Evers College, but Malcolm haunts almost every page, up to Betty's tragic death in 1997 in a fire set by a grandson. Rickford's skeptical ear (" `When ya die, niggas lie on ya,' hissed one of my sources") keeps the book from tilting toward hagiography, and his inclusion of telling (and often funny) bits of urban myth, aphorism and domestic detail (Malcolm took coffee "integrated"-his word-with cream) give the narrative warmth and punch. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library JournalFormer Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Rickford here chronicles the tragic life of Malcolm X's widow-and her equally tragic death after being severely burned in a fire started by her grandson. Educator/community activist Shabazz (1936-97) struggled to raise six daughters after her husband was assassinated, at the same time earning a doctorate. (LJ 10/15/03) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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