“X: A Novel” by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

Michigan Humanities is announcing the sixth round of Great Michigan Read, a biennial statewide literary program focusing on humanities themes. The Great Michigan Read aims to connect us as Michiganians by deepening our understanding of our state, our society, and our history. A statewide panel of teachers, librarians, community leaders, and book lovers select the Great Michigan Read every two years.

“X: A Novel is an engrossing tale of the arduous past of a civil rights leader, and a fine platform for engaging humanities programs and discussion across the state,” said Shelly Hendrick Kasprzycki, Executive Director.

The book explores the Michigan roots of Malcolm X, including the early life experiences, both good and bad, that molded him into one of the most prominent leaders of the twentieth century.

There will be several opportunities to meet the authors, register as a community partner, present and attend book-related programs, and be a part of our new exciting ideas for the 2017–18 Great Michigan Read.

“This honor is especially important to me. It is always a high honor to have one’s work recognized by a distinguished organization such as Michigan Humanities, and to be an inspiration to readers throughout Michigan.”
                  ~ Ilyasah Shabazz, Author

The Great Michigan Read is supported by The National Endowment for the Humanities, and by sponsors Meijer, The Historic Ford Estates, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Library of Michigan, Detroit Public Library Foundation, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, Sarah Jury, MSU Federal Credit Union, and Michigan Radio. Sponsorship opportunities are available to deliver books and events throughout our state. Please contact Michigan Humanities Council to find out how to get involved.


Book Summary:

X: A Novel is a fictionalized account of the early years of Malcolm X. Malcolm was a young man with boundless potential but with the odds stacked against him. After losing his father under suspicious circumstances and his mother to a mental health hospital, Malcolm fell into a life of petty crime and eventually went to prison. Instead of letting prison be his downfall, Malcom found a religion, a voice; and the podium that would eventually make him one of the most prominent figures in the burgeoning Civil Rights movement.

X: A Novel, is a tale of reinvention and redemption. Written by Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcom X’s third daughter, and Kekla Magoon, X is a young-adult novel with a writing style and message that will appeal to readers of all ages. Join us as we work to explore the Michigan roots of one of the most influential leaders of the twentieth century.

Author Information:

Ilyasah Shabazz, third daughter of Malcolm X, is an activist, producer, motivational speaker, and the author of the critically acclaimed Growing Up X and the picture book Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X.

Kekla Magoon is the author of eight young adult novels, including The Rock and the River, How It Went Down, X: A Novel, and the Robyn Hoodlum Adventures series. She has received an NAACP Image Award, the John Steptoe New Talent Award, two Coretta Scott King Honors, The Walter Award Honor, and has been long listed for the National Book Award. Kekla holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts,
where she now serves on faculty.

What is the Great Michigan Read?

The Michigan Humanities’s Great Michigan Read is a literary program for the entire state with a focus on a single book – X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon.

Program Dates:

  • Program runs from August 2017 through May 2018
  • Partner Registration begins April 13, 2017
  • Author Tour: Appearances throughout Michigan
    • Kekla Magoon: October 10–12, 2017
    • Ilyasah Shabazz: October 12–14, 2017
    • Locations TBD

Program Materials – Available late summer 2017

Great Michigan Read partners receive free reader’s guides, teacher’s guides, bookmarks, and other supplemental materials. Schools, libraries, and select nonprofits will be eligible for free copies of the book.

Quick Grants

Quick grants of up to $500 are available to help bring in a Great Michigan Read supporting program centered on the themes found in the selected title.

Selection Process

The 2017–18 Great Michigan Read title was selected by seven regional selection committees representing all corners of Michigan. After reading books with Michigan themes or locations from June–September 2016, the selection committee chairs met in Lansing in October of 2016 where they selected X: A Novel as the next Great Michigan Read.


About the Michigan Humanities

The Michigan Humanities connects people and communities by fostering and creating quality cultural programs.

  • In carrying out its mission, the Council encourages and supports, through advocacy, fundraising and community engagement, a variety of activities that bring humanities scholars and the public together to examine culture. Moving forward, the Council will:
  • award grants for public humanities and cultural programs;
  • conduct public humanities and cultural projects of statewide importance;
  • initiate collaborations and partnerships to broaden and strengthen the organizational and institutional base for the humanities in Michigan; and
  • provide the humanities with leadership and a public voice in Michigan.

The Michigan Humanities will be known as a unifying force throughout Michigan, whose programs help people connect with one another and the places where they live, by fostering a greater understanding and engagement in the cultures, histories, and values which tell us who we were, are, and hope to be.