February 18, 2015

February - The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Alex Kava

Last month we talked about Omaha author Alex Kava and wondered if she might be available to talk to book clubs. When I checked her web site to see if she meets with book clubs, I was surprised to see that she'd be appearing at our local Barnes and Noble on the very night of our next meeting. So five of us met there to hear Kava talk, primarily, about her latest book, Breaking Creed, but also about her writing process, what she reads, her other characters and changing her name to further her career.

Breaking Creed pulls to the fore Ryder Creed, a character introduced to Kava's readers in a earlier book and includes Kava's best-known character Maggie O'Dell. Kava has just finished edits for a second book about Creed with plans for more. She said she learned from writing about O'Dell how to create a character for a book series and was very careful about the back story she created for Creed to that it was something she could work with in future books. She hadn't planned O'Dell's character to be recurring resulting in some issues she'd rather not have to be working around.

Afterwards, we headed out for some eats, some drinks, and some discussion about this month's book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. One of the things that made this discussion interesting was that Diana had actually read the wrong book, a biography about Malcolm X that addressed quite a lot of what was included in the Autobiography. Essentially that book said that the autobiographical work was largely a work of propaganda. Which seems entirely feasible given the way it is written, nearly 200 pages devoted to making it clear the Malcolm Little was a very, very lost sinner making his redemption ever so much more dramatic. Then long, long passages of both his speeches and those of the Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. We all agreed that we wished the life of pre-Islam Malcolm had been more tightly edited so the focus could have been on his life after. It was easy to see, just in what happened with both of his parents, how Malcolm could easily have been swayed to the Nation of Islam. But even after he had cleaned his life up, we still felt like he was a hustler. It was interesting to learn that the biography's description of Malcolm's marriage and relationship varied greatly from his own. Although, given that this book is supposed to have been a piece of propaganda, I don't suppose that's surprising. Definitely an interesting book, worth reading to learn about an important piece of history.

Next month we start Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True. We'll split this 900 pager into a two month read.