Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam

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9780062511348: Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam

Since the 1930s, the Nation of Islam has been one of the foremost all-black organizations in the United States. Yet for most people outside the movement, it has been known only through media portrayals of the controversial leaders such as Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan. As a young girl, Sonsyrea Tate was one of tens of thousands of "Little X's," the children raised within the Nation of Islam as future foot soldiers of black unity. In Little X, Tate, an award winning journalist, shows us the Nation of Islam from the inside: Little X is the compelling account of one woman's cultural identiy, family unity and spiritual fulfillment in a predominantly white and Christian America.

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Review:

Her grandparents joined the Nation of Islam in 1952, which makes Sonsyrea Tate a third-generation member of the Nation. In this fascinating glimpse at life behind the scenes in an NOI family, Tate tells of going to a Muslim school, of the changes in the Nation after the death of its leader, Elijah Muhammad, and of the tensions within her family after her mother converted to Orthodox Islam. For all that it is a profoundly interesting account of growing up in a different culture, in the end Tate's is a quintessentially American story of a child coming of age and finding her own path.

Book Description:

"Instead of writing a bitter condemnation of the Nation of Islam, Tate has adroitly described its purpose as well as its shortcomings." —USA Today

"A temperate and sympathetic treatment of an African-American family's religious evolution." —Publishers Weekly

"A compelling story. It provides an honest, inside view of one of America's most controversial religious movements and perceptively points to social tensions of race, gender and religious identity." —Kirkus Reviews

"Extremely valuable. Recent literature is interested almost exclusively in male leaders. Tate's book provides a new perspective. I have used the book in a number of teaching contexts to very good results." —Judith Weisenfeld, Vassar College

In Little X, Sonsyrea Tate reveals, through the acute vision and engaging voice of a curious child, the practices and policies of the mysterious organization most know only through media portrayals of its controversial leaders Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan. First published in 1997, Little X chronicles the multigenerational experience of Tate's family, who broke from the traditional black church in the 1950s to join the radical Nation of Islam, then struggled to remain intact through disillusionment, shifting loyalties, and forays into Orthodox Islam.

Little X is also an absorbing story of a little girl whose strict Muslim education filled her with pride, confidence, and a longing for freedom, of a teenager in an ankle-length dress and headwrap struggling to fit in with non-Muslim peers, and of a young woman whose growing disillusionment with the Nation finally led to her break with the Muslim religion. Little X offers a rare glimpse into the everyday experience of the Nation of Islam, and into a little-understood part of America's history and heritage.

Sonsyrea Tate-Montgomery has been a staff writer for the Virginian Pilot, Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. The recipient of four coveted Echoes of Excellence awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, Tate has also worked as assistant to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. She currently works as a political reporter for The Gazette, a Post-Newsweek publication.

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