Encyclopedic in its approach, Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking, $30) provides the most comprehensive and penetrating portrait yet of the legendary black activist. Marable, a historian who died on the eve of this book’s publication, drew on diaries, letters, FBI and CIA documents, and interviews with people who had been silent for decades. He peels away the layers of myth that have arisen around Malcolm as a result of Malcolm’s own memoir and the efforts of both supporters and opponents after his assassination in 1965 at the age of 39. The result is a biography that meticulously charts the complex and contradiction-filled evolution of Malcolm’s political and religious beliefs and also sets Malcolm’s life within the larger context of 20th-century racial developments.
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