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Comparative Analysis of Two BooksBook Report

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¶ … autobiography of Malcolm X, as narrated by Alex Haley, is written with a refreshing honesty as the author relives his own personal transformation from a petty, self-destructive criminal into an articulate activist, a militant study of white racism and his focus on self-help and self-respect for African-Americans. And there is the vividness with which the author portrays black popular culture-to the extent that even though he attempts to criticize the so-called lindy hops at Roseland dance hall in Boston from his viewpoint as a Muslim, his description makes them sound rather pretty amazing. These are but a few handpicked examples of the kinds of themes and depths this autobiography spans. The Autobiography of Malcolm X narrates an archetypal journey from despair and ignorance to spiritual awakening and knowledge (Tyrion).

Jeff Chang's narration of what he refers to as "the hip hop generation" delves into the cultural movement that hip hop inspired and also tries to define the ambitions, hopes and nightmares of a generation whose sole unifying factor was its opposition to any stereotypes or definitions that any outsider would have attempted to impose. This is however a very difficult task to undertake, however at the very least, the movement was quite small and site-specific that Jeff Chang finds it quite easy to circumscribe: he narrates how nowadays it might be hard to imagine, but during the 1970s most of the youth and the culture which became known as hip hop could be traced only within a seven mile radius in the Bronx, New York (ABRAMOVICH).

This paper investigates the key themes of two books, of 'Autobiography of Malcolm X' and 'Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation', by beginning with a purpose statement and a clear discussion of the three key themes for comparative analysis. A summary of the key points that are discussed in the two books is given prior to a comparative analysis of the main themes between the two. This paper then gives a conclusion with a clear identification of the discussion and themes mentioned throughout the review.

Purpose of Statement

Beliefs about the self, create obstacles and openings to mutual acknowledgement and progressive social action. The analysis focuses on the challenges that an increasingly bigger number of progressive and anti-racist whites posed to each particular movement (McCorkel and Rodriquez).

Comparative Themes

Racism

Once perceived as an inspiring narration of a spiritual journey by some and a chilling chronicle of racism in America by others, the book, transcribed by the widely acclaimed author of Roots uses unsparing amounts of self-criticism and other tools to recast Malcolm X as one of the greatest spiritual and political leaders of modern America. Passionate, articulate, inspirational, and a gifted orator, Malcolm X urged blacks to cast off the shackles and chains of racism by all or any means necessary, including violence. One cannot have a peaceful revolution or a turn the cheek revolution or a non-violent revolution, he stated. Such militant proposals, including the use of violence to create an independent black nation, won a huge number of followers for Malcolm X as well as a multitude of fierce critics. Due to Earl Little's political activism, the family faced a lot of harassment from white supremacist movements such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and one of its offshoots, the Black Legion. To say that Malcolm X had his first encounter with racism even before he was born would not be entirely out of place, though it may sound dramatic. However, the racism that Earl Little's (Malcolm X's father) family encountered in East Lansing proved to be far worse than what they experienced in Omaha. Shortly after Little's family moved to East Lansing in 1929, a racist arson attack on their house occurred and the town's all white emergency response team refused to help. The white firemen and police came and stood around the house and watched it burn down completelty, Malcolm X recounted (Malcolm X Biography). In Can't Stop, Won't Stop, the matter of race trumped that of real materialist issues of control and authority. These fires were perceived by many as sufficient proof detailing the inability of Latinos and Blacks, the groups residing in the Bronx, to co-exist peacefully and to bring about a secure living environment for their communities. In a memo to President Nixon, Daniel Moynihan who later became a Senator cited the Rand corporation statistics on the fires.

Hustling and Activism

The skills that Malcolm X utilizes as a hustler and later in his role as a civil rights activist were not developed with these future tasks and roles in mind. They were instead built upon the need for survival skills that Malcolm acquired at a young age, really bringing out the fact that life was always a matter of survival for any urban black man. Though Malcolm's early life was quite different from his adult life, his ability and energy to fight for survival in U.S.'s racist culture is displayed prominently in both phases of his life (Themes, Motifs and Symbols).

Jeff Chang, the author, gives an anecdotal proof of the systematic oppression of inner-city dwellers. In one particular instance, he depicts the new economy in which landlords who, suffering from lack of renters due to structural changes in the labor market, found out that they could get more money through insurance fraud, and thus hired "rent-a-thugs" to burn their buildings to ashes. To the landlords, this was good business, the owners were left with huge insurance payouts, often going beyond $150,000, the thugs were paid and the remains of the burned out buildings provided capital in the form of copper pipes, steel and other hardware for junkies to pilfer. Insurance firms also benefitted heavily, in that, due to the threat of arson attacks they sold more policies (ABRAMOVICH)

Humanity as Basic Right

Malcolm, in his activism, dehumanizes some whites as a revenge of his own subjugation. While in Boston, Malcolm displays his new white girlfriend, Sophia, as a status symbol. In a sense, this depicts her as an object he owns rather than a person; however, after quite a number of years in which his Nation of Islam had repeatedly preached the anti-white rhetoric, Malcolm meets white people in Mecca who treat him as an equal, causing a change of heart, as he begins to acknowledge the humanity of individual whites (Themes, Motifs and Symbols). Chang notes that in Jamaica a Rastafari movement known as the "Black Nationalist Movement" started, adhering to the ideas of Marcus Garvey. The struggle to gain power amid the leading Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) and the Rastafarian-backed People's National Party (PNP), during the colonialists reign, paved way for the deadly clearing of the Back-O-Wall ghetto that had been the home for two of Rastafarian sects (Southgate).

Summary

Autobiography of Malcolm X

Character Analysis:

Malcolm is the main character in this book. Even though many characters play key roles in the development of Malcolm's career and beliefs, the autobiography fails to explore them in depth. The lack of focus on other characters is however not surprising, as an autobiography should obviously, essentially focus on one individual. Malcolm however "changes" many times during his lifetime. The various names he refers to himself as including, Satan, Detroit Red, Malcolm X, Malcolm Little and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz -- mark the various stages of his life journey (Themes, Motifs and Symbols).

Status Symbol:

In this book, characters associate with other individuals on many occasions just to be seen with them, thus depicting these other individuals as objects rather than real people. The autobiography notes that this habit was for depicting how society's hierarchy status determines our sense of self-worth and our identities. Malcolm first encounters this hierarchy when he gets special treatment from his own father just because he was lighter skinned compared to his siblings. Malcolm father's preferential treatment shows how his superficial traits, instead of his personality, give him priority in his family's hierarchy. Malcolm himself uses Sophia, his white girlfriend, as a status symbol, parading her like an enviable asset for his jealous friends around Boston bars (Themes, Motifs and Symbols).

Travel and Transformation:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, links instances of travel and transformations to portray the simultaneous spiritual and wordly aspects of Malcolm's changes. Malcolm undergoes quite a number of quick and total conversions, each beginning with a travel to a distant and confusing place. In his journeys, Malcolm searches for two things; a philosophy and a home. When he moves to Boston, he is quickly absorbed by the activities taking place around him, including wearing lavish street-style suits, using marijuana, listening to jazz, resorting to petty crime and gambling. Likewise, in prison, he emulates intelligent and reflective inmates, such as Bibi, and he eventually transforms/reinvents himself as a worldly individual and a devoted Muslim (Themes, Motifs and Symbols).

Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of a Hip Hop Generation

Chang's search for great men:

Chang is mainly concerned with hip hop… [END OF PREVIEW]

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