Betty Before X, by Ilyasah Shabazz with Renée Watson
Where to even start? I love that Betty Before X—a book about a woman who is best-known by most people as The Wife of Malcolm X—focuses so closely on the relationships that she had with girls and women. Her love for the aunt who took her in as a baby; her push-pull relationship with her biological mother; her friendships with her peers; her adoration of Helen Malloy, who adopted her when she was eleven.
All of these relationships are well-drawn and meaty and nuanced—it’s especially lovely to see how Helen Malloy’s activism affects Betty’s understanding of the world, how she moves through it, and her desire to change and improve it—but it’s her difficult relationship with her biological mother, Ollie Mae, that really shines.