Making Malcolm

Making Malcolm : Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X

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Twenty years after his assassination, what is it about Malcolm X's life and words that speaks so powerfully to so many? In Making Malcolm, Michael Eric Dyson probes the myths and meanings of Malcolm X for our time. From Spike Lee's film biography to Eugene Wolfenstein's psychobiographical study, from hip-hop culture to gender and racial politics, Dyson cuts a critical swathe through both the idolization and the vicious caricatures that have undermined appreciation of Malcolm's greatest accomplishments. A rare and important book, Making Malcolm casts new light not only on the life and career of a seminal black leader, but on the aspirations and passions of the growing numbers who have seized on his life for insight and more

Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 144.78 x 208.28 x 25.4mm | 453.59g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • 019509235X
  • 9780195092356

Review Text

An intriguing but uneven essay on the enduring influence and image of Malcolm X, by the author of Reflecting Black (not reviewed). Dyson (Communications Studies/Univ, of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) prefaces his book with an arresting anecdote about leading a Malcolm X seminar at Brown University, where he publicly scolded black male students who imposed a "racial litmus test" to claim for themselves exclusive rights to Malcom's legacy (i.e., "because I'm black, poor, male and angry, I understand him better than you"). Had Dyson drawn more frequently on classroom experiences, this book might have been energized. He first briefly sketches Malcolm's life and thought (avoiding lionization by noting his harsh attitudes toward women) and the complexity of his political evolution away from the Nation of Islam and black nationalism. Next comes a long assessment of the "uncritical celebration and vicious criticism" that mark so many books on Malcolm; Dyson identifies "four Malcolms" that emerge from these assessments: hero/saint; public moralist; victim and vehicle of psychohistorical forces; and revolutionary socialist. He then analyzes Malcolm's role in the resurgence of black nationalism, noting that his defiance has been adopted by tappers and other disaffected black youth. However, while calling for a "new progressive black politics," Dyson doesn't analyze the role of the Nation of Islam or of black leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton on the contemporary black political scene. His next chapter, on masculinity in 1990s black film, strays somewhat from his subject; more interesting is his take on Spike Lee's Malcolm X, which Dyson considers hagiographic but also "often impressive...richly textured and subtly nuanced." The book concludes with a heartfelt meditation on how to make the best use of Malcolm's legacy. Dyson calls for a more complex debate on the state of black males, suggesting that Malcolm's message of self-discipline and self-love might be redemptive. Not as rich as Joe Wood's collection, Malcolm X: In Our Own Image (not reviewed), but useful for serious students. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

"Michael Dyson's Making Malcolm is the most sophisticated and accessible analysis of Malcolm we have."--Cornel West, author of Race Matters"Making Malcolm is an important work precisely because of Dyson's uncompromisingly critical approach to Malcolm's life and work, to his scholarly interpreters, and to the ideological work his legacy performs vis-a-vis Black popular culture. Dyson's fearless, lucid, and smooth-flowing style renders his complex analyses wonderfully accessible....Especially striking is his ability to render a sensitive and informed analysis of the contemporary crisis of African American men while simultaneously offering a subtle yet unyielding critique of the misogyny and homophobia that often go unchallenged by scholarly and popular readings of Malcolm....This book is sure to be a turning point for future discourse on Malcolm X."--Angela Y. Davis, Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz"Michael Eric Dyson is emerging as a young and powerful Black intellectual who is giving strong voice and clear perspective to the African experience in America. In his new book, Making Malcom, Dyson shows us a Malcolm X for our time; a man who, above all else, sought truth and justice for his people. Such a flame can light the way for a new generation of resisters and freedom fighters."--Rev. Jesse L. Jackson"With the situation getting more hectic, the real troopers come far and few. And with misinformation spreading, it is a necessity to follow Michael Eric Dyson. He's a bad brother. Check out his new book Making Malcolm by all means."--Chuck D. of Public Enemy"Michael Eric Dyson reflects the thinking of a new generation of American scholars of African descent. His insights and analyses of the Malcolm X phenomenon are extraordinary and instructive to all who seek to understand both the history and future of race and intergroup relations in the United States. I highly recommend this compelling book."--Senator Carol Moseley-Braun"This thoughtful, scholarly essay on the charismatic political leader, assassinated in 1965, scrutinizes his reemergence as a cultural hero."--Publishers Weekly"With great respect, sensitivity, and love--a balance Malcolm himself mastered--Dyson assesses Malcolm's role in the resurgent black nationalism(s) of this generation's young black artists and students."--Los Angeles Times"Malcolm X is mainly a thread that ties together Mr. Dyson's reflections on black films, hip-hop culture, and the agony of poor black men, as well as his vision of radical democracy...The essays...intrigue and illuminate.... An eloquent and humanistic plea."--The New York Times Book Reviewshow more

About Michael Eric Dyson

About the Author: Michael Eric Dyson is an ordained Baptist minister and Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of the widely acclaimed Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Emerge Magazine, The Nation, Vibe, andRolling more

Rating details

133 ratings
3.91 out of 5 stars
5 31% (41)
4 38% (50)
3 24% (32)
2 8% (10)
1 0% (0)
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