Review of Betty Before X audiobook

Betty Before X
by Ilyasah Shabazz with Renée Watson; read by Ilyasah Shabazz
Intermediate, Middle School    Macmillan Young Listeners    Rev. 3/18
4 CDs    4.5 hrs.    978-1-4272-9368-8    $29.99

Long before she was the wife of Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz was a girl growing up in 1940s Detroit within a solid churchgoing community engaged in the fight for racial equality; a childless couple from this community raised Betty when her own mother rejected her. Having co-written her mother’s (fictionalized) story, Ilyasah Shabazz narrates the audio version, adjusting her voice to mimic youthful delight about candy and jazz music and readjusting it to capture Betty’s solemnity when faced with injustice. Betty’s busy social life and faithful churchgoing mean that narrator Shabazz must sing “Happy Birthday” as a child and “Amazing Grace” in the voice of Paul Robeson, who was a visitor to Betty’s community. Shabazz does neither song a disservice.

From the July/August 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Nell Beram
Nell Beram is coauthor of the young adult biography Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies (Amulet/Abrams), which made the 2014 Amelia Bloomer Project list and YALSA’s 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound list.

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