Malcolm X's cultural rebirth--his improbable second coming--brims with irony. The nineties are marked by intense and often angry debates about racial authenticity and "selling out," and the participants in these debates--from politicians to filmmakers to rap artists--often draw on Malcolm's scorching rebukes to such moves. Meanwhile, Malcolm's "X" is marketed in countless business endeavors and is stylishly branded on baseball hats and T-shirts sported by every age, race, and gender. But this rampant commercialization is only a small part of Malcolm's remarkable renaissance. One of the century's most complex black leaders, he is currently blazing a new path across contemporary popular culture, and has even seared the edges of an academy that once froze him out. Thirty years after his assassination, what is it about his 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. The book's first section offers a boldly original and penetrating analysis of the major trends in interpreting Malcolm's legacy since his death, and the fiercely competing interests and ideologies that have shaped these trends. From mainstream books to writings published by the independent black press, Dyson identifies and examines the different "Malcolms" who have emerged in popular and academic investigations of his life and career. With impassioned and compelling force, Dyson argues that Malcolm was too formidable a historic figure--the movements he led too variable and contradictory, the passion and intelligence he summoned too extraordinary and disconcerting--to be viewed through any narrow cultural prism.
The second half of the book offers a fascinating exploration of Malcolm's relationship to a resurgent black nationalism, his influence on contemporary black filmmakers and musicians, and his use in progressive black politics. From sexism and gangsta rap to the painful predicament of black males, from the politics of black nationalism to the possibilities of race in the Age of Clinton, Dyson's trenchant and often inspiring analysis reveals how Malcolm's legacy continues to spur debate and action today.
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 inspiration.
"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....Such a flame can light the way for a new generation of resisters and freedom fighters."--Rev. Jesse L. Jackson
"An imaginative and at times impressive effort to explain why Malcolm X is a legitimate African American hero and yet to show that there is a tendency in too many of the writings on African Americans to depict him as infallible and his speeches and writings as sacred texts."--The Journal of American History
"This book could be a good source for meaningful discussion about an important black figure whose influence is still being felt, despite his death in 1965."--KLIATT, July 1996
"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 a 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 inspiration."--National Black Employment Directory
"Dyson beautifully demonstrates the inevitable futility that awaits those who try to pigeonhole Malcolm or claim him for any particular group. What emerges is an honest, serious, and objective scholarly attempt to understand Malcolm's thought."--African-Americans for Humanism EXAMINER
"A dead leader's image is often appropriated by both critics and followers for their own purposes. This collection of essays shows to what extent Malcolm X has suffered this fate and argues that we was a much more complex man than many believe: compassionate as well as militant, self-critical as well as hard-headed."--The New York Times Book Review New & Noteworthy Paperbacks
"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
"Malcolm X is the thread that stitches together these eloquent, freewheeling essays on hip-hop culture, black films and the tragic lives of poor black men."--New York Times Book Review- Notable Books of the Year 1994
"The essays... intrigue and illuminate."--New York Times Book Review
"An intriguing essay..."--Kirkus Reviews
"[A] valuable meditation on Malcolm's cultural significance..."--Washington Post Book World
"Dyson...is a rarity in publishing, an academic with a lively writing style....Making Malcolm delivers a powerful summation of why Malcolm means so much to so many. Dyson separates the man from his myth and allows us to see both much more clearly."--The Milwaukee Journal
"[Dyson's] essays are inventive, often freewheeling displays of scholarly erudition and passionate exegesis....His exuberance and sheer pleasure in the act of analysis itself sustains his momentum."--Tikkun
"[This] engaging, well-written book is destined to become a standard text in what to date is a dissapointingly short trade bibliography."--National Journal
"The University of North Carolina professor's essays have fans, not only because he brings a fresh edge to discussions, but because of his mix of styles and language."--Black Conscience Syndication
"[A] thoughtful, scholarly essay."--Publishers Weekly
"Dyson's work does a very fine job of introducing students to the basic concerns that attend the ongoing struggle over the representation of African-American iconic figures of social possibility."--Maurice E. Stevens, University of California at Santa Cruz