About My Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz

Title: Betty Before X

Author: Ilyasah Shabazz, Renée Watson

Published: 2018

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grade Level: 3rd-5th Grade

Trigger warning: Racial Violence


Blurb (from goodreads):

A powerful middle-grade novel about the childhood activism of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, written by their daughter.

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her.

Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights.

Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.

My Scores:

Writing Style: Solid

I think the writing style is solid. The voice is strong, realistic, and relatable. There are also several thought-provoking messages showcased in the novel that anyone at any age can appreciate.


Characters: Memorable

It was a nice change of pace to find so many well-developed adult characters in a middle-grade novel. I enjoyed reading about how much they influenced our MC, Betty, for better or for worse.

Betty was a very relatable and inspiring character. I felt for her so much in regard to her relations with her biological mother. But I also felt empathy towards the black community after reading that bleaching cream (among other things that are in spoiler territory) was a thing!

Side Note: The life that Betty (the historical person) lived was an incredible testament to faith, determination, and grit.


Plot: Enjoyable

I found the first half to be an absolute page turner. It was so sad to read that Betty was a scapegoated child (just like in Call Me Tuesday), and I just had to know if she was going to be alright in the end.

Link to Book Review of Call Me Tuesday:


The second half wasn’t as enjoyable for me because I found the pacing to be a bit slow.

Overall: Enjoyable

I learned quite a lot about an unsung hero in the black community. Perfect pick for February, if I do say so myself.

I loved the messages in this novel, I loved the writing style, and I loved how the novel presented the reality of the time period which really throws the reader for a loop.

The pacing wasn’t perfect, but overall it was an enjoyable read that I would recommend.



Pro Christianity

Keep trying, even in the face of adversity, because something good may come out of it.


Goodreads Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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