The Book that Changed My Life

The Autobiography Of Malcolm X

"People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book."
Malcolm X (The Autobiography of Malcolm X)
I was 10-years-old the first time I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. There was an old, shabby copy in our classroom library that always drew me in. I would grab that book and read a chapter here and there, until my teacher Mrs. Blowe allowed me to take it towards the end of the school year, I probably would've swiped it had she not consented. I kept that copy for years to come, not because I didn’t want to purchase another, but because of what it meant to me. It was funny that a book released over thirty years earlier was so profound on me and nearly twenty-five years later, the impact is just as great.
I was given this book at a time when I was coming into my own as a young man and by reading about his life, I not only was able to witness through words the power of change, but realize that my own potential was unlimited. This thick, pocket-sized version of his life became a reminder that we are only restricted by what we allow our minds to be bound by and our place on this Earth is not defined by color, age, gender, height, weight or any other physical attribute we define ourselves by.

Keep in mind that this is public school in 1988; up until that point, the only Black folks of relevance I learned of in school were Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks and Crispus Attucks. Luckily, I was part of an after-school program that stressed the importance of Black culture in America, which opened our eyes to the imprint African-Americans had made on this country and the world, things that weren’t in our Social Studies books, but had an impact on our everyday life. We learned about Garret A. Morgan and the traffic light, Dr. Charles Drew, Phyllis Wheatley, Mary McLeod Bethune, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, learned some Swahili and about this guy named Malcolm Little, who would become Detroit Red, Malcolm X and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
And there I was after recess, in that corner reading a few pages at a time, intrigued at how this man, became an icon, someone who was so great, that I’d never heard about before. During that summer of 1988, Malcolm X became the symbol of the unlimited power of change, the result of investing in you to be better than you were yesterday. This is long before Spike Lee began his ad campaign for his movie, before I saw Do the Right Thing or fully understood the image from Boogie Down Productions’ album cover. I was just a child, on the verge becoming a man, learning how from someone who had lived and died to be recognized as a man. There were a few years when I forgot to use the tools I picked up in those pages, but I would always find myself drawn to a copy, as a reminder of the book with the ripped cover that changed my life.