Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.