BOOKS OF THE TIMES
Peeling Away Multiple Masks
Published: April 7, 2011
He was a master of reinvention who had as many names as he did identities: Malcolm Little, Homeboy, Jack Carlton, Detroit Red, Big Red, Satan, Malachi Shabazz, Malik Shabazz, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and, most famously, Malcolm X. A country bumpkin who became a zoot-suited entertainer who became a petty criminal who became a self-taught intellectual who became a white-hating black nationalist who became a follower of orthodox Islam who became an international figure championing “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”
A Life of Reinvention
By Manning Marable
Illustrated. 594 pages. Viking. $30.
Patricia Wall/The New York Times
In his revealing and prodigiously researched new biography, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” Manning Marable — a professor at Columbia University and the director of its Center for Contemporary Black History, who died just last week — vividly chronicles these many incarnations of his subject, describing the “multiple masks” he donned over the years, while charting the complex and contradiction-filled evolution of his political and religious beliefs. The book draws from diaries, letters, F.B.I. files, Web resources and interviews with members of Malcolm X’s inner circle.