Little X: Growing up in the Nation of Islam / Edition 1

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Overview


In Little X, Sonsyrea Tate reveals, through the acute vision and engaging voice of a curious child, the practices and policies of the mysterious organization most know only through media portrayals of its controversial leaders Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan. First published in 1997, Little X chronicles the multigenerational experience of Tate's family, who broke from the traditional black church in the 1950s to join the radical Nation of Islam, then struggled to remain intact through disillusionment, shifting loyalties, and forays into Orthodox Islam.

Little X is also an absorbing story of a little girl whose strict Muslim education filled her with pride, confidence, and a longing for freedom, of a teenager in an ankle-length dress and headwrap struggling to fit in with non-Muslim peers, and of a young woman whose growing disillusionment with the Nation finally led to her break with the Muslim religion. Little X offers a rare glimpse into the everyday experience of the Nation of Islam, and into a little-understood part of America's history and heritage.

Sonsyrea Tate-Montgomery has been a staff writer for the Virginian Pilot, Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. The recipient of four coveted Echoes of Excellence awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, Tate has also worked as assistant to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. She currently works as a political reporter for The Gazette, a Post-Newsweek publication.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Faye A. Powell
From her childhood in the sixties through her early teens, Tate was reared and educated as a "Little X" in Washington, D.C.'s Nation of Islam community. This is her account of growing up in a strict, proud, complex religion that molded yet challenged her identity. At Washington's Nation-run University of Islam, Tate attended Muslim Girls' Training classes, learning to sew and be a good wife, and regular classes that taught her reading, math, science (at a more advanced level than public school students), and that "black people, especially the few...chosen for the Nation of Islam, would rule the world." When she was nine the Nation closed its school, and Tate was enrolled in public school. "[It was like] moving to another country, adjusting to a culture and philosophy we had been trained to despise," she writes. Later, Tate, her parents, and her siblings would leave the Nation to become Orthodox Muslims, a conversion sparked by Elijah Muhammad's death; the organization's restructuring; and the hypocrisies and confusion of faith that pervaded Tate's family. But the Nation had stirred in Tate a sense of determination, and a desire to make her own decisions. By her last year in school, she was a self-motivated, independent thinker seeking her own choices about faith and worship, and considering a career in journalism. This autobiography is composed of segments of Tate's life, and after a few jumps, it flows smoothly. The people in Tate's life are not fully exposed, but each is drawn well enough for readers to get a true sense of how they helped shape the author. Little X will ring true for YAs growing up in religious communities with fundamentalist beliefs-Muslim or otherwise. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Kirkus Reviews
The written history of the Nation of Islam has focused heavily on the movement's leaders, such as Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X; it has been told from an almost exclusively male perspective; and it has virtually ignored the transitional period of the 1970s, when Elijah Muhammad's son transformed the movement into one more in keeping with orthodox Islam. This cogent memoir challenges all three of these trends.

Tate, a 30-year-old journalist, offers an autobiographical portrait of her childhood in the Nation and then in orthodox Islam. Here we see how rank-and-file members of the Nation lived, how their dress, organizations, and dietary restrictions set them apart even within Islam (not only pork was forbidden, but also white rice, white potatoes, and white bread). Tate's earliest years were spent in an all-Nation school, which she attended year-round and where she was drilled with the Nation's ideology about race (that whites are blue-eyed devils and blacks the superior race) and gender roles (women's role being to bear children for the Nation). She struggled against many of the strict regulations, though this rebellion was always mixed with a sense of pride, of corporate identity. But with the 1975 death of their leader, Elijah Muhammad, Tate's family and other followers were set adrift, trying to find a place in orthodox Islam, seeking ways to juxtapose being Muslim and African-American. Tate began attending public school, wearing street clothes and enjoying new freedoms, though always with more restrictions than her classmates (and her male relatives). In her teen years, Tate's family began to crumble beneath the weight of intergenerational and religious disagreements, and orthodox Islam did not prove a strong enough force to hold them together.

Little X is a compelling story, despite an indifferent prose style, because it provides an honest, inside view of one of America's most controversial religious movements and perceptively points to social tensions of race, gender, and religious identity.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572333642
  • Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 935,107
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Sonsyrea Tate-Montgomery has been a staff writer for the Virginian Pilot, Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. The recipient of four coveted Echoes of Excellence awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, Tate has also worked as assistant to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. She currently works as a political reporter for The Gazette, a Post-Newsweek publication.
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Table of Contents

1 Opening prayer 7
2 Education : the mind is a terrible thing to waste 27
3 All praises due to Muhammad 43
4 One nation under a rule 61
5 Brothers got my back 71
6 Mother Earth/goddess of the universe 83
7 Dis-integrate 97
8 A house divided/a change gon'come 107
9 Out in the world 115
10 Wake up, everybody 131
11 Fight the power 145
12 Making modest maidens 167
13 Higher learning 187
14 Believe I'll pray on ... see what the end's gonna be 209
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