Betty Before X (hardcover)
by Ilyasah Shabazz with Renee Watson
Betty Before X is a semi-fictional biography of Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X. Before she became his wife, she was born to a young, unwed mother in Alabama. She was raised by her aunt before moving back with her mother in Detroit during the 1940’s. In the story, Betty’s mother Ollie Mae is a harsh woman who has no patience for Betty. Betty feels unloved and ends up moving in with a loving couple from their church. There, Betty is able to thrive as a young woman, joining the Housewive’s League to raise awareness of the mistreatment of black people in Detroit. While they are not living with the Jim Crow laws, they still experience violence and discrimination, and have progress to make. Betty remembers to count her blessings and work hard to move her community forward.
What I liked about this book is that I learned about a period of time I might not have known about otherwise. It showed several sides of the story- while Betty and the Housewive’s League tried to get people to boycott stores they couldn’t be hired at (don’t give money to a store if they aren’t willing to hire black people), others felt like they had to do what they had to do to survive (if Sears is having a sale, that’s where people would go). We teach that you can make a difference, no matter how small, but Betty and other characters felt hopeless at times, not seeing the difference they were trying to make. I like that it’s based on a true story, and gives students perspective.
What I didn’t like about this book was how cruel Ollie Mae was to Betty. As an adult, I can understand that she was probably resentful of Betty, and angry with herself for not being a good mother, so it was easier for her to be mean to Betty rather than admit that she made mistakes herself. It was just hard for me to read as a mother, the way she was so awful to her.
Book 61 of 40
(Book 27 of 2018)