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Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography

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The age of multitasking needs better narrative history. It must be absolutely factual, immediately accessible, smart, and brilliantly fun. Enter Andrew Helfer, the award-winning graphic-novel editor behind Road to Perdition and The History of Violence, and welcome the launch of a unique line of graphic biographies.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, these graphic biographies qualify as tomes. But if you're among the millions who haven't time for another doorstop of a biography, these books are for you.

With the thoroughly researched and passionately drawn Malcolm X, Helfer and award-winning artist Randy DuBurke capture Malcolm Little's extraordinary transformation from a black youth beaten down by Jim Crow America into Malcolm X, the charismatic, controversial, and doomed national spokesman for the Nation of Islam.

ISBN-13: 9780809095049

Media Type: Hardcover(First Edition)

Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux

Publication Date: 11-14-2006

Pages: 112

Product Dimensions: 6.45(w) x 18.25(h) x 0.60(d)

Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

Andrew Helfer, as group editor at DC Comics, launched its Paradox Press imprint and the award-winning Big Books series, and worked on everything from Batman to The History of Violence. Randy DuBurke's illustrations have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Mad Magazine, DC and Marvel comics, graphic novels, and science-fiction magazines. He is the winner of the 2004 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for illustration. He lives in New York.

Read an Excerpt

Malcolm X

A Graphic Biography


By Andrew J. Helfer

Hill and Wang

Copyright © 2006 Andrew J. Helfer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8090-9504-9



CHAPTER 1

HARD TIMES


MALCOLM'S FATHER, EARL LITTLE, WAS PART OF THIS MIGRATION. A CHILDHOOD SPENT IN GEORGIA, WHERE LYNCHINGS WERE FREQUENT, INSTILLED IN HIM A DESIRE FOR FREEDOM AND A CONVICTION THAT IT COULD NEVER BE WON IN WHITE AMERICA.

AS HE HEADED NORTH, HE WORKED AS AN ITINERANT PREACHER ...

... FOR MARCUS GARVEY'S UNIVERSAL NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION (UNIA).

GARVERY AND HIS FOLLOWERS PREACHED A POLITICAL GOSPEL OF BLACK SEPARATISM. THE UNIA BELIEVED THAT ONLY BY SHAKING OFF ALL WHITE INFLUENCES COULD AFRICAN AMERICANS TRULY BE FREE.

DECADES LATER, MALCOLM X WOULD FIND A SIMILAR SEPARATIST CAUSE IN THE NATION OF ISLAM (NOI).

MALCOLM'S MOTHER, LOUISE NORTON, WAS AS LIGHT-SKINNED AS EARL LITTLE WAS DARK LOUISE'S BIOLOGICAL FATHER WAS A WHITE MAN WHO HAD RAPED HER MOTHER.

THE LITTLE FAMILY SETTLED IN OMAHA, NEBRASKA, WHERE EARL VISITED LOCAL BLACK CHURCHES TO PREACH GARVEY'S GOSPEL OF BLACK PRIDE AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY.

EARL'S 'SUBVERSIVE' SPEECHES ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF THE OMAHA CHAPTER OF THE KU KLUX KLAN.

MALCOLM WROTE THAT JUST BEFORE HE WAS BORN, A GROUP OF ANGRY KLANSMEN TO THE LITTLE HOME LATE ONE NIGHT, INTENDING TO BURN IT TO THE GROUND.

THEY WERE MET AT THE DOOR BY MALCOLM'S FIERCELY DEFIANT-AND QUITE PREGNANT-MOTHER, WHO SINGLE-HANDEDLY TURNED THEM AWAY.

YEARS LATER, MALCOLM WOULD RETELL THE STORY AS AN EXAMPLE OF THIS PARENT'S COURAGE AND THE EVILS OF WHITE SOCIETY. HE BELIEVED IT FORESHADOWED THE DIRECTION HIS OWN LIFE WOULD TAKE.

HIS MOTHER, FOR HER PART, HAD NO MEMORY OF THE EVENTS.

THE KLAN'S THREATS STRENGTHENED EARL LITTLE'S RESOLVE TO SPREAD THE WORD OF GARVEY'S PLAN FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN SELF-SUFFICIENCY ...

... EVEN THOUGH HE KNEW THIS GUARANTEED THAT THE KLANSMEN WOULD RETURN.

ON MAY 19, 1925, MALCOLM LITTLE WAS BORN. EARL HAD LONG PLANNED TO NAME HIS SON AFTER HIMSELF.

BUT AFTER HIS FIRST LOOK AT THE INFANT, HE CHANGE HIS MIND.

HE LOOKS WHITE, LIKE HIS MAMA!

HIS NEW SON WAS NOT DARK-SKINNED ENOUGH TO TAKE HIS FATHER'S NAME. INSTEAD, HE WAS CALLED MALCOLM.

THE FAMILY MOVED SHORTLY AFTER MALCOLM'S BIRTH, FIRST TO MILWAUKEE AND THEN TO LANGING, MICHIGAN, WHERE EARL CONTINUED PREACHING FOR THE UNIA.

BLACK CONGREGATIONS APPLAUDED EARL'S MESSAGE BUT HAD SCANT MONEY TO GIVE HIM STILL, BY 1929 THE LITTLES MANAGED TO BUY A SMALL FARMHOUSE.

THE FAMILY, HOWEVER, HAD PRECIOUS LITTLE MONEY TO MAKE ENDS MEET. EARL WAS FED BY GRATEFUL PARISHIONERS, BUT HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN OFTEN WENT HUNGRY.

TENSIONS GREW WITHIN THE FAMILY. EARL, NEVER A PATIENT MAN, BEGAN BEATING HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN AT THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION.

ONLY MALCOLM FOR REASONS THAT HE BELIEVED HAD TO DO WITH HIS LIGHTER SKIN COLOR, ESCAPED HIS FATHER'S WRATH.

THIS ALREADY DESPERATE SITUATION SOON GOT WORSE. AGAIN, RACE WAS THE REASON.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Malcolm X by Andrew J. Helfer. Copyright © 2006 Andrew J. Helfer. Excerpted by permission of Hill and Wang.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. This work of graphic nonfiction, perhaps significantly, is presented entirely in black and white. Point out a few instances in the book where you think its black and white illustrations meaningfully reflect—or effectively represent—the racial or thematic colors of black and white. (You might also consider the photographs at book's end when preparing your answer.)

2. One of the few full-page illustrations in this work is the first picture we see. Who is this man? Describe his pose, his facial expression, his appearance. What is he holding? What do we learn, at the outset, about this man, just from seeing how he is depicted here?

3. The first speech balloon in this book is on page 7: "He looks white, like his mama!" Why might this be important, as the book's very first line of dialogue, especially given what is being said, who is saying it, and about whom the remark is made?

4. On page 15, we see a montage on the lower half of the page; it's the first of a few montages employed throughout Helfer and DuBurke's book. What all is shown here; what is being to revealed to us—not just people, but also places, things, words, ideas, activities. Also, what other montages did you find in this work?

5. What is a "conk"? And a "second story man"? And a "hipster"? (These terms all appear in Chapter Three.)

6. On page 33—and earlier in the book, on page 17, as well as later, on pages 74 and 95 — we see the image of Malcolm X reflected in a mirror. In each case, with each illustration, describe what Malcolm is physically doing as we see him, and describe whether and how his actions are entirely or accurately captured in his reflection. What does it mean—actually, psychologically, and conceptually—to view, and also to depict, the mirror image of something?

7. Look again at the white people appearing in the bottom panel of page 60. How has this family been drawn, in your view? Stereotypically, comically, unfairly, oddly, accurately, realistically, or otherwise? Explain.

8. Talk about the importance of perspective—that is, one's point of view, both visually and philosophically—in the panel illustration on the bottom half of page 65. What famous event is Malcolm shown observing? What is his perspective on this event? How has this P.O.V. been graphically shared with us?

9. Chapter Eleven of this book is entitled, "Hajj." What does this word mean? And why do you think the book switches to first-person narration at this juncture? What effect did this switch have on you, as a reader? And how was this switch underscored visually — that is, how was it accomplished in terms of illustration, and how was it textually emphasized on the page?

10. Why is Malcolm's face shown amid flames in the lower-right panel on page 97? What appears in the panel just before this one? And how does this preceding image set us up for, or else relate to, the picture in the lower-right corner? Discuss the use of fire as a visual metaphor in Malcolm X, especially near the end of Malcolm's life.

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
CHAPTER ONE: HARD TIMES,
CHAPTER TWO: RECKLESS YOUTH,
CHAPTER THREE: EYES WIDE OPEN,
CHAPTER FOUR: THE HUSTLER LIFE,
CHAPTER FIVE: A DOWNWARD SPIRAL,
CHAPTER SIX: ONE LAST HUSTLE,
CHAPTER SEVEN: SATAN BEHIND BARS,
CHAPTER EIGHT: FREE AT LAST,
CHAPTER NINE: A NEW LEADER,
CHAPTER TEN: SINS OF THE FATHER,
CHAPTER ELEVEN: HAJJ,
FURTHER READING,
Copyright Page,