The Awakening of Malcolm X

Content Overview

Overall Content



Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking


Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty


Violence, Weapons, Blood, Crime


Potentially Intense Themes


**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

The Awakening of Malcolm X

Ilyasah Shabazz, Tiffany D. Jackson

The Awakening of Malcolm X is a powerful narrative account of the activist’s adolescent years in jail, written by his daughter Ilyasah Shabazz along with 2019 Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe award-winning author, Tiffany D. Jackson.

No one can be at peace until he has his freedom.

In Charlestown Prison, Malcolm Little struggles with the weight of his past. Plagued by nightmares, Malcolm drifts through days unsure of his future. Slowly, he befriends other prisoners and writes to his family. He reads all the books in the prison library, joins the debate team and the Nation of Islam. Malcolm grapples with race, politics, religion, and justice in the 1940s. And as his time in jail comes to an end, he begins to awaken — emerging from prison more than just Malcolm Little: Now, he is Malcolm X.

Here is an intimate look at Malcolm X’s young adult years. While this book chronologically follows X: A Novel, it can be read as a stand-alone historical novel that invites larger discussions on black power, prison reform, and civil rights. 

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.

My Opinion

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom. —MALCOLM X

I loved seeing Malcolm evolve. He started as a bitter man and turned into a strong, confident and powerful one. It was amazing to read the details that went into that change. I loved that his experiences made him a great person, not full of revenge. 

We follow him through parts of his childhood and prison, to after prison and what he became. The change of timelines throughout the book was difficult to decipher at times. The transition was choppy and left me confused multiple times.

I don’t understand why this book is labeled YA. He was 17 for part of the book but the majority of it, he was 20 and older. It entails his life in prison and his life living on his own, away from his family. It did not feel YA at all. I can see the benefits to young people reading the book, I just don’t agree with the YA label. It is written in first person and did not come off smoothly. The writing left me wanting more, needing more descriptions, more details, more emotions. It felt in contrast to the powerful story that was happening. I didn’t feel it reel me in like I expected. This was my most anticipated book for January and I opted to read and finish many other books instead. I can only attribute it to the writing because the story itself was enthralling. The conversion from a story of his past, to a story on paper was inferior to my expectations.

“We win more when we are together. That message is worth more than all the words you can ever muster.” I learned powerful lessons of unity and love. He is definitely someone to admire. 

Thank you to Fierce Reads (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group) for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review. This book releases today January 5, 2021.

**quotes from the book are taken from the advanced copy and therefore may not be fully accurate or compare to the final copy of the book.

Detailed Content Review



H***- 21

S***- 14

A**- 3


D***- 13


Religious Cursing



G**- 5


Derogatory terms etc-

Nigger 27

 (some is said with affection, some is said with disdain)



White bigot

Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking

A teen talks about how it’s been so many days since his last high.

An inmate chugs water and nutmeg in place of reefer (marajuana cigarette). 

A man smokes a cigarette. 

A man “tingles” from his nutmeg (drug replacement) that morning. 

When the inmates watch baseball games or fights on tv, a man sells nutmeg and cigarettes. 

A man sells reefer. 

A young man hands his younger brother a beer. He sips a beer and later pours himself bourbon.

Coming down from his nutmeg addiction causes a man sweats, and irritability. 

A young man sells drugs while his brother pretends not to see. 

A young man drinks whiskey. 

A young man drinks whiskey. 

A woman smokes a cigarette. A man drinks whiskey. 

Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty

*No LGBTQ+ aspects included*

A group of inmates are forced to strip naked by gunpoint. 

Ice cold water is sprayed on new naked inmates.

A black man is beaten for the rumor of sleeping with a white woman. 

A woman and man are in bed together. He gets up and puts clothes on. She jumps in his arms and he asks if she will leave her husband to be with him. 

Violence, Weapons, Crime, Blood

Teens break into houses and steal items. They get caught and sent to jail. 

A young woman falsely accuses two young men for theft. They get a large amount of jail time. One young man faints and officers kick him. 

Ice cold water is sprayed on new naked inmates. 

Previously, the KKK set a family’s house on fire. 

“Six guards with their six batons, with their knees, elbows, and fists, knock me out cold.” when a man resists being taken somewhere. 

A guard hits a man in the face with a baton, blood spurts. More guards hit him and drag him out. 

A guard throws a man against the wall after a woman touched his hand during visiting hours. 

A man is surrounded by about 15 men who beat him with a baseball bat. 

A man carries a gun.

At 14 a young man sees many bodies lynched. 

A man wears a stocking over his face and robs a bar. The owner hires hit men to find the thief.

Men give a man a hammer so he can get a man to pay him what he owes. 

“The mob beat our father like an animal. They tied him up and placed him on the tracks and stood there to watch an oncoming train sever his body. Cut one of his legs off entirely.”

A man is thrown against the wall and searched. When he argues about going to “the hole” (solitary confinement), the guards beat him with batons while he screams. Then he stops screaming and is unconscious.

Previously, a man is hit over the head with a metal pipe. Men wrestle him on train tracks and tie him down. 

A gang of men drive through a town and shoot and kill people- adults and children. They burn houses and stores. 

Potentially Intense Themes

“Be quiet. You shouldn’t have been with a white woman anyway.”

A wife predicts her husband’s death. He doesn’t come home that night. She screams a terrifying scream. The father was murdered. 

Another prisoner hanged himself with bedsheets. That’s the 7th one in a month. 

In “the hole” (solitary confinement) a man feels desperation and claustrophobic. He had no concept of how long he was in there but his ribs poke out now. They later tell him it was 3 weeks. 

A man is sent to death row. He is executed.

A man hangs himself in his cell. Prison guards have the other inmates walk by him. His eyes are closed and his lips purple. 

A man fights the urge to kill himself. 

There is a lot of talk about God and Allah and Jesus. One man has a faith crisis. 

Multiple men debate the death penalty. 

A man has been kept in solitary confinement for 15 months. When out, he is white haired, limping and hallucinating. 

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 


  1. This would be an interesting read – it’s a shame that it was choppy. In my eyes historical books should go in chronological order, not all over the place.

  2. I agree that it doesn’t seem like a strictly YA book. Maybe New Young Adult? It sounds interesting but wish it had been written better (or edited better).

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