Community encouraged to attend book discussion Feb. 22


MIO –– The Oscoda County Library will host a book discussion and presentation Thursday, Feb. 22, on “X: A Novel” as part of the 2017-18 Great Michigan Read to encourage reading and discuss important topics with the community.

The sixth round of Great Michigan Read, a statewide literary program that runs every other year, focuses on humanities themes and aims to connect Michigan residents by deepening our understanding of our state, society and humanity, according to A statewide panel of teachers, librarians, community leaders and book lovers selects the Great Michigan Read.

The book chosen by the Michigan Humanities Council's Great Michigan Read program for this year is “X: A Novel” by Ilyasah Shabazz, the third daughter of Malcolm X, and Kekla Magoon. The story is a fictionalized tale of reinvention and redemption during the earlier years of Malcolm X’s life in Michigan, eventually leading him to become one of the most prominent figures in the civil rights movement. According to Oscoda County Library Programming Clerk Beth Barron, copies are available at the Mio and Fairview branches of the library for anyone interested in reading the book before the event.

“Attendees will be able to ask questions of the presenter,” Barron said. “Dr. John Aerni-Flessner from (Michigan State University) will be doing a presentation on the book and will also facilitate a discussion.”

Aerni-Flessner is an MSU assistant professor of African and world history and often does presentations on similar topics as the novel.

“The story of a young Malcolm Little is the story of Michigan,” Aerni-Flessner said. “His experiences represent the reality for many who grew up here in the 1920s and 1930s. From a personal perspective, it was Malcolm's experiences with racial prejudice and discrimination in his early days, along with his parents’ activism for causes like Marcus Garvey's Pan-Africanism movement, that placed him on a trajectory to be an activist and human rights campaigner later in his life.”

Aerni-Flessner said understanding this concept will hopefully help young people see how they are a product of their environments.

“It was only when Malcolm really started to understand this deeply later in his life that he returned to a Pan-Africanist message that tried to unite people in Africa with peoples of African descent around the globe,” he said.

Aerni-Flessner said he hopes the group discussion will highlight some ways in which lessons such as Malcolm’s early life story have not been the focus of the conventional Michigan history. He said he thinks bringing the story to light will help people understand the diversity of Michiganders in the past and how our predecessors’ experiences, while shaped by common threads, tended to be vastly different and still came together to play out in our state and local communities.

“I think talking about the past can help people reflect on the present in a way that will help them critically examine how are communities are, and are not, set up to help people succeed in a myriad of ways,” he said.

Barron said the presentation will last approximately 90 minutes to two hours.

“I think the biggest impact of the presentation will be exposing people to a part of Malcolm X's life that is not well-known and also having a discussion about that part of history and how Michigan impacted his life,” she said.

She said she was hoping the community will take advantage of the free and culturally significant event.

It is not required to read the book to attend the presentation. The session will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Oscoda County Library Mio branch. For more information, call the library at 989-826-3613 or email Barron at


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