Windows & Mirrors: Betty Before X

Welcome to Windows & Mirrors where we feature books that provide us windows to lives outside our own and mirrors to our shared common human experiences.



Today we’re celebrating Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renée Watson!

Ilyasah Shabazz is the daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. She’s the author of several books about her revolutionary family, including the critically-acclaimed adult memoir Growing Up X, a beautiful picture book about her father Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X as well as a fictionalized middle-grade biography about him entitled X, a 2016 Coretta Scott King honor book. Now, she’s sharing the story of her mother who is just as inspiring as her father, both icons for the Civil Rights Movement.

Set in Detroit in 1945, Betty Before X is the heart-rendering fictionalized account of Betty Shabazz’s tween years. Betty struggled to understand problems with segregation and racial hostility in her community, and she had a very difficult home life due to her unloving mother. But Betty didn’t let those problems define her. She paid close attention to the positive role models in her community, which helped her develop admirable responses to hardship and injustice––forgiveness, gratitude, and a yearning to work for a better future. Those traits helped Betty bloom into the community leader and civil rights advocate who later married Malcom X.  This story of a girl learning self-acceptance and overcoming the feeling that she didn’t belong is sure to resonate with young readers. The short, vividly-detailed chapters make for fantastic historical fiction for ages 10+. We can’t think of a better story to highlight during Black History Month, and we’re happy to report that, though it just released in January, it’s already in its second printing!

Ilyasah Shabazz is just as fascinating as her iconic and amazing family. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Check out this interview with her to learn more about her and her important work.

To celebrate Black History Month, we curated this list of great fiction by black authors that is available on audiobook through Click the image to check it out! Audiobooks to Celebrate Black History Month

Also, if you’re going to read any blogs in February, you should check out The Brown Bookshelf’s 28 Days series. It’s fantastic with daily author interviews and book featuring black authors.


Posted by Michelle Leonard.

Introducing Windows & Mirrors

The phrase “windows and mirrors” has become a catch-phrase of the movement for more inclusivity in children’s literature. Borrowed from a scholarly paper written more than twenty-five years ago by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, the words remind us why children need to see themselves, and others who are not like them, in books:

Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books. –Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990, p. ix

And yet, the statistics around who is telling children’s stories are sobering. Even with the ongoing discussion on social media and at bookish conferences and gatherings, the numbers have only slightly budged and are not even close to representing the actual demographics of our country.

Early last month, a few of us at The Winged Pen took a moment to discuss our reading goals for 2018. Several of us had goals specifically around reading more from marginalized voices and in the process of comparing notes, we realized we could share the books we’d found with our readers in hopes that you, too, could read more of these amazing books in the coming year.

We hope that someday, all book lists will represent the beautiful diversity of our world. Until then, we’d like to introduce Windows & Mirrors, a new series of book recommendations from The Winged Pen. Three Fridays per month, we’ll feature a mix of new and upcoming releases, as well as some favorites from the past few years that you might have missed, all written by writers who come from marginalized groups in need of having their voices heard.


Although this is a new series, this topic is not new to the bookish community or to this blog.

While you wait for tomorrow’s first recommendation, check out these past posts from The Winged Pen:

And here are some additional recommendations from other groups who are leading the way on this important topic:

To kick things off, we’ve teamed up with to create this list of amazing audiobooks by black authors to celebrate Black History Month! Purchases at support your favorite Indie Bookstore. Please check it out!

Black History Month Audiobook Playlist