Betty Before X Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-07-08 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"a really great middle-grade book not only about the childhood of dr. betty shabazz, but also about what life was like in black communities in detroit during the 1940s. I expected it to be a little more like a biography, but it reads much more like historical fiction inspired by fact.

something this book did really well is show racist acts and microagressions that betty faced in everyday life. although she lived in an all-black community and her parents shielded her from a lot of "headline news" types of events (like race riots and the murder of leon mosley) she could never be fully shielded from racism. she still saw skin lightening products in ebony magazine and she still saw christmas displays in storefront windows where all the figurines were white.

despite all the hardships betty went through, she was such a positive and caring character who was a delight to read about. this book would really inspire a child her age to get involved in activism and work for equality and the betterment of their community. :'))

p.s. this cover is absolutely beautiful!! props to shannon wright for the illustration!!
" said.

"Renée Watson is one of my favorite new voices and I love seeing her name pop-up in books where I don't necessarily expect it. She has a light touch to her work that belies the power of the story beneath.
This is the story of Betty Shabazz before she met Malcolm. It details her childhood and her entrée into activism as a young girl. It is a story of friendship, and negotiating a tough relationship with her mother. Despite the relationship with her mother being difficult and emotionally taxing, I didn't walk away from this with a negative view of her. There are certainly actions she takes that are unacceptable but she is a complex woman, and the love Betty holds for her comes through, despite rejection. Betty also negotiates a friendship that falls through when she takes on more activist duties, in particular a boycott of stores that don't hire African Americans.
This could be read by elementary students and I love it for that. It's never too early to start talking about Malcolm X, and then this gives the background to women activists so you could move from someone like Malcolm X to Betty Shabazz to Ella Baker to Fannie Lou Hamer to other women critical to the civil rights struggle.
" said.

"Ilyasah Shabazz, their daughter, collaborates with Renee Watson on Betty Before X which shares the childhood story of Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcom X. Most of the story takes place in 1940's Detroit where Betty lives with an adopted family, the Malloy's, as a result of her tumultuous relationship with her birth mother, Ollie Mae. We learn of Betty's faith & forgiving nature rooted in her upbringing at Bethel AME Church, one of Detroit's oldest and largest black congregations. We learn of her participation in the early years of the Housewive's League of Detroit and the tension between those who believed in the boycott of businesses who refused to hire black workers and those who felt the league was out of touch with black working families' situations. We learn of her strong bond with her biological siblings and her sister-friends. The story reads a lot like Stella by Starlight, by Sharon Draper. The author sticks mainly to the facts of the her mother's childhood, but notes that some characters and situations were created to represent the general experience of black people in Detroit during the 1940's. An author's note provides a little information about Betty's history with Malcom X, more information about the setting, groups and characters in Betty's childhood, and a timeline. Recommended grades 5-8." said.

"A daughter explores her mother's youth , with love.

Much like her previous work about her father, Shabazz's latest middle-grade novel is the story of her mother's life before she became Mrs. Malcolm X (and, well, her mother). Betty Dean Sanders and her mother had a rocky relationship, one that led to her being raised first by her grandmother, and then by a kindly neighbor from church. Her adopted mother was very socially active and conscious, and belonged to a Black women's club that urged the community to buy Black, and boycott stores that would not hire Black workers. You can easily see how Betty developed a social conscience, but she was also just a girl with girlish wants: friendship and clothes, mostly, but also, her biological mother's love, which she might or might not get.

Shabazz writes with such clarity and love about her mother, not sentimentally, but with great sympathy and compassion. She basically puts herself inside her mother's shoes and imagines what it must have been like to be her. It's a wonderful way to introduce children to an important woman in Black history, but it's also a great story for children who are having their own family difficulties. It certainly raises questions about social responsibility that can lead to great conversations both in school and at home. In the end, however, it's about mothers and daughters, and the ways in which it can be difficult to be one, the other, or both. Highly recommended for all children's collections.
" said.

"This is a historical fiction inspired from the life of Dr. Betty Shabazz right before she sets out on her path of activism for human rights in the Civil Rights Movement.

As a child growing up in my tiny country in West Africa, as far as I can recall, not once was Dr. Betty’s role in the Civil Rights Movement mentioned or discussed in detail. Everytime I had to learn about the Civil Rights Movements it was always in a context of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. versus Malcom X. The “peaceful” activist against the “violent” activist.

Even though I am fully aware that this book is barely the tip of the Iceberg, it bothers me greatly that Dr. Betty’s story went missing from my narrative.

Betty’s struggle with getting a rounded understanding of perseverance in making good trouble without retaliating when a brother or sister gets murdered by police, or a store owner verbally or physically abuses someone without consequences (the list goes on) resonated with me on several levels. How can one hope the system will make things better, bring justice when that system was never put in place to serve everyone?

I also enjoyed learning about Betty’s family life although it’s hard to tell if the things she endured during those four years played a role in the decisions she made for herself later after she joined the Housewives League.

The voice in the book is engaging and will pull at your heartstrings. I appreciate that a book like this now exists and will not only show children a different angle to the Civil Rights Movement but will also open the door to those who don’t know better to further their knowledge by reading about Dr. Betty beyond this book.
" said.

"In this second middle grade novel by Shabazz, she this time focuses on her mother, Betty Shabazz, who would one day marry Malcolm X. Set during Betty’s childhood in the 1940s, this book explores Betty’s complicated relationship with the mother she was taken from at a young age. Betty was raised as a small child by an aunt but when the aunt died, Betty is moved from the south to Detroit, where she lives with her mother and her mother’s new family. The book focuses on faith and community activism as Betty learns how to make her way with a mother who doesn’t show love or affection to her at all. As Betty’s connection to the community grows stronger, she finds people who care for her. She eventually joins the Housewives League and fights to support black-owned businesses in Detroit. Even though the novel is about just a few years in her youth, readers will clearly see Betty’s growth from young girl to a civil rights leader.

Shabazz and Watson together have created a book that soars. They firmly anchor Betty’s life in the 1940’s, surrounding them with the music of the time, the societal expectations in that time period, and small touches that make sure readers understand the implications of the time period. They also depict the richness of the African-American community in Detroit, the women who led organizations and endeavors, the strength of friendships that are built together with church and community, and the hope that it created for change.

Throughout the book symbols of oppression continue to remind readers that the 1940s was not a simpler time. A very young Betty witnesses the bodies hanging in trees after a lynching in the south. In Detroit there are riots when an African-American boy is shot in the back by police. These events echo through to the present and the Black Lives Matter movement, showing that while progress has been made there is still much to do.

A strong book that looks with clarity at the making of a civil rights leader. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
" said.

"@kidlitexchange #partner
Thank you to @kidlitexchange for chance to review this book. Betty Before X tells the story of Betty Dean Sanders, the woman who would grow up to marry Malcolm X. Betty was born in 1934 in Georgia. As a baby, her grandmother took her away from her mother and she was sent to live with her Aunt Fanny Mae, who loved her like her own daughter. When Betty was seven, her aunt Fanny Mae passed away and she went to Detroit to live with her mother, stepfather, three younger sisters, and two step brothers. Betty loved her siblings, and they loved her. Her relationship with her mother was strained, and Betty did not feel truly loved by her mother. When she was in middle school, Betty went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Malloy, a couple from her church who did not have children. They treated Betty like their own daughter and she lived with them until she graduated from high school.
Growing up as a young girl in the south, Betty was exposed to segregation, and saw her first lynching. Even though there weren’t the same laws of segregation in Detroit, Betty was still exposed to prejudice. As a teenager, she joined the junior Housewives’ League. Guided by Mrs. Malloy, and Mrs. Peck (the former pastor’s widow), Betty and her best friend Suesetta would hand out pamphlets and go door to door, and protest at grocery stores, trying to convince others to boycott businesses who would not hire Negroes. They took part in meetings and ceremonies for the NAACP where famous people such as Paul Robeson, Billy Eckstine, and Sarah Vaughan would speak and perform. The book ends as Betty is getting ready to enter high school, and shortly after Leon Mosely, a 15 year old black boy is shot and killed by a Detroit police officer. Betty was a smart and hard working young woman. You were left knowing that she was destined for great things.
This is a very inspirational story. Even though Betty faces hardships and goes through tough times, she always persevered and learns to be thankful and count her blessings. She had people in her life who she loved, and who truly loved her.
After the story ends, there is an author’s note, additional information about Detroit in the 1940’s, Betty’s church, and a timeline of her life. Be sure to read these for more great insight into Betty’s life. Before reading this, I knew nothing about the life of Betty X. I am so glad her daughter wrote this book to share her mother’s powerful story!
" said.

" I received a copy of this book from McMillan Children's Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. " said.

July 2018 New Book:

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