A reader’s guide to president-elect Donald Trump

I didn’t read anything this week. I couldn’t. I pulled together a stack of hefty thrillers to get me through the next month or so, the kinds of books into which a frustrated American might escape in moments of desperation. But this week I stumbled through in a kind of dazeโ€”surface-calm while emotionally experiencing something akin to the final scene in Se7en. Kevin Spacey is Donald Trump, Brad Pitt is America, and Morgan Freeman is the rest of the world. We’re all just waiting to see what’s in that fucking box.


But books aren’t far from my mind. Over the past few days, I’ve found myself thinking back to things I’ve read that resonate just as strongly, or more strongly, now as before. Books that seem prescient in light of Tuesday’s results, even if (and I sincerely hope this is true) the specter of a Trump presidency proves scarier than the actuality.

I know, aggregating yourself is a bit douchey. But I hope you’ll cut me some slack in these trying, exhausting times.

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42 quotes from The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Page numbers in parens.ย 


“I learned early that crying out in protest could accomplish things.” [8]

“The more I began to stay away from home and visit people and steal from the stores, the more aggressive I became in my inclinations. I never wanted to wait for anything.” [15]

“I have always felt…that the black ‘leader’ whom white men consider to be ‘responsible’ is invariably the black ‘leader’ who never gets any results.” [389]


“I don’t care how nice one is to you, the thing you must always remember is that almost never does he really see you as he sees himself, as he sees his own kind.” [28]

โ€œโ€ฆthe collective white man had acted like a devil in virtually every contact he had with the world’s collective non-white man.” [181]

“For the white man to ask the black man if he hates him is just like the rapist asking the raped, or the wolf asking the sheep, ‘Do you hate me?’ The white man is in no moral position to accuse anyone else of hate! Why, when all of my ancestors are snake-bitten, and I’m snake-bitten, and I warn my children to avoid snakes, what does that snake sound like accusing me of hate-teaching? ” [245]

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Finally digging into The Autobiography of Malcolm X

3 X slideshow

I decided to dive into The Autobiography of Malcolm X after last week’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, during which people like Barack Obama and Oprah touted how far our nation has come on civil rights in the last five decades. Said Obama in his speech: “To dismiss the magnitude of progress, or to suggest, as some have, that little has changed, dishonors the courage and sacrifice of those who paid the price to march.”

A week later, having delved into the life and thoughts of one of the country’s most recognizedโ€”and contentiousโ€”civil rights leaders, I find myself wondering whether Malcolm X would entirely agree

TAMX begins in Lansing, Michigan, where Malcolm Little is a generally good kid and upstanding student until the day he visits a relative in Boston and his mind is blown by all the hustle and bustle and black people. That tripโ€”coupled with a teacher’s admonition that Little could never be a lawyerโ€”inspires in him a certain frustration, and Malcolm soon drops out of school and moves to Boston, and later Harlem, where he becomes a small-time hustler: selling weed, shepherding men to prostitutes, robbing apartments, etc.

At 20, back in Michigan, Malcolm is arrested for robbery and sentenced to 8-10 years in prison (a sentence he notes is harsher for his choice of accomplices: white women) where he reads a shit-ton of books and discovers the Nation of Islam, a Muslim offshoot-slash-cult that promotes self-sufficiency, asceticism, surrender to Allah and that “the collective white man had acted like a devil in virtually every contact he had with the world’s collective non-white man.” (Which, true.)

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