Book: Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam by Sonsyrea Tate
Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
Publication date: 2005 (originally published 1997)
Summary: Little X is the story of a girl who was born into a family in the late sixties that had joined the Nation of Islam. Her schooling began at age 3 and consisted of disciplined study and high expectations for early graduation, college attendance, and a life of dedicated service. During her teens, her family and many other blacks (including, famously, Malcolm X), transition into Orthodox Islam, with prayers 5 times a day but no special schools. Sonsyrea finishes up her schooling in public schools with new challenges and opportunities.
Sonsyrea Tate writes of her confusions with this and other transitions in her family with an adult’s reflection on how this affected her and the people in her community. In the end, although she confesses to some resentment and bitterness, she shares a message of universality:
When my Christian relatives suggest I need to commit myself to a particular church or a t least a particular religion–choosing one over another–I explain to them the main lesson I learned growing up: they’re all good.
Thoughts: Little X by Sonsyrea Tate was the selection for our Diversity Book Club this month. We all learned a lot about an aspect of African American culture that isn’t very visible, at least not in our area. I realized that I need to re-read The Autobiography of Malcolm X because I was too young in college to understand or remember the history that I was learning through that. I do remember that being a very male-oriented account so Little X was a good story for getting a female perspective.
Appeal: This is, apparently, used in college classes and so is most likely encountered there but it is an accessible account that wouldn’t require academic support for understanding. It should appeal to anyone making a study of the broad swath of African American experiences.
Challenges: This is Book 9 of my Buy One Book and Read It challenge, putting me a month ahead of pace for completing that challenge.
Reviews: Stephanie at Open Mind, Insert Book read the book in 2009 and covered more of the reasons why Sonsyrea Tate ultimately left the religion of her youth: Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam- Sonsyrea Tate. Reading Rants a blog about books for teens wrote a small piece about Little X in 2007 pointing out that many teens (along with the rest of us) will relate to the questions one has in adolescence about the religion of your parents: Little X: Growing up in the Nation of Islam by Sonsyrea Tate.
Have you read this book? What did you think?