STARRED REVIEW
January 02, 2018

A civil rights icon finds her feet

By Ilyasah Shabazz & Renée Watson

Activist and award-winning author Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, joins with novelist Renée Watson to give middle grade readers a glimpse into the early life of her mother.

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Activist and award-winning author Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, joins with novelist Renée Watson to give middle grade readers a glimpse into the early life of Shabazz’s mother.

“Count your blessings, young lady. Name them one by one—even the small things.” Eleven-year-old Betty Dean Sanders has no idea that when she takes this advice to heart, it will equip her for bigger life issues. These words, spoken by the woman who eventually becomes Betty’s adoptive mother, are a turning point in the preteen’s abusive childhood.

Betty is growing up during turbulent times in 1940s Detroit, but she maintains a thankful attitude toward family, friends and the opportunity to be involved with the Housewives’ League, which supports black businesses. Keeping sight of graciousness amid hostility helps Betty become “an outspoken advocate for human rights, women’s rights, racial tolerance, and the goal of self-determination and self-reliance.”

This engaging coming-of-age tale shines a light on one young girl’s hope for happiness and equality in the midst of apparent hopelessness and despair. Shabazz and Watson weave the historical horrors of racism into this lyrical story, making Betty Before X a provocative, powerful read.

“It is my hope that by reading my mother’s story,” Shabazz writes in an author’s note, “young people who may be feeling abandoned or neglected, fearful or hopeless, anxious or unsure, will find inspiration.” Shabazz’s goal is completed in this lovely book.

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Betty Before X

Betty Before X

By Ilyasah Shabazz & Renée Watson
FSG
ISBN 9780374306106

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