Book Review: Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X

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by Rodnell P. Collins and A. Peter Bailey

Publication Date:
List Price: Unavailable
Format: Paperback, 238 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9780758201171
Imprint: Kensington
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Parent Company: Kensington Publishing Corp.
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Book Reviewed by Thumper

Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X is a memoir told by his nephew, Rodnell P. Collins and his mother, Ella Little Collins. Seventh Child is a nice, factual, highly readable, at times intensely emotional book attempting to set the record straight by bringing more dimensions to a man that most people think they know, answering a few questions that other biographies, documentaries and films do not. Malcolm X has been the subject of many books over the years, books that have erroneously established a distorted image. He is either a martyr or the most dreaded, despicable, hated black man that ever inhaled air. Seldom, is he portrayed as a brother or an uncle.

A family perspective of Malcolm X is one I had not previously heard or read. Rodnell Collins completes a biography that his mother, Ella Collins began in the late 1960s because she did not approve of the image writers, film producers, and followers, wanted to project of her brother. I do not find fault with her logic. Ella Collins possessed a great deal of information that was not public knowledge or accessible. Two of the biggest misconceptions of Malcolm X the book explored in detail was: his spiritual awakening following the orthodox Islam instead of the Islam that proclaimed Elijah Muhammad as the divinity, not solely due to Muhammad's illegitimate children but his want to worship the true Islam religion oppose to a man; and foreign policies he wanted to enact, communicating and forging solid relationships with leaders of African nations, and the fruition of linking the treatment of all colored people of the world at the hands of white European folk-which would have embarrassed the United States on a global stage, as well as interfered with US interests in the African and Asian countries-making Malcolm X a prime target for assassination. These were not daydreams, pie-in-the-sky wishes, but forthcoming realities. Malcolm X was about to do it, tweaking the noses of a couple of federal government agencies, at minimum becoming a major irritant. As you know, in Washington D. C., or any place that believes it holds any kind of power, image is everything.

It is about time someone from the family spoke or wrote about Malcolm X. It is imperative that the most accurate representation of the man is available considering that he will be the subject of much scholarship and admiration. Malcolm X's popularity and interest in his writings, his life, has not wane with the passage of time. In Seventh Child, Malcolm X has to share the spotlight with his sister Ella. I found her equally as fascinating. If the Littles were any other family, another color, or produced a less politically controversial leader-one who subscribed to the ’going along to get along’ mentality-Miss Ella and her siblings would have been heralded as the great American success story.

One compliant I have concerning the book was its repetition of titles and blood relations. I thought more than once, ’Yeah, I know who Aunt Hilda is’for the 14th time.’ Thus, slowing the pace of the book, acting as speed bumps on a racetrack. Another objection was my expectation of the book. I wanted the book to be an epilogue. A want from a person who believes, falsely in this case, that he knows all there is to know about the subject. It quickly became apparent that Seventh Child was not written with the purpose of satisfying the curious, nor had an ’axe to grind’. The book retraces Malcolm X's life filling a few empty blanks. I now know the feelings and thoughts that Collins and Miss Ella have for Malcolm X. Leaving me to wonder how the rest of Malcolm X's family felt about his life and his death, especially the brothers and sisters that continued in the Nation of Islam when the overwhelming consensus being the Nation of Islam was responsible for their brother's death. A question, I am afraid, that will remain unanswered.

Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X accomplishes its greatest feat and performs its greatest service by making Malcolm X a man, a real man, not a martyr or the devil incarnate, but Ella's little brother and Rodnell’s favorite uncle.

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