There’s a short answer. There’s a long answer. There’s also an unbelievable answer.
I think it’s best to start with the short answer. The others can follow in due course if people are interested in them. Sometimes, I think the long and the unbelievable answers would work better as talks, or podcasts or something. So, if you’re interested, I’m available.
Back to the beginning.
I wrote the book with Hilda because she asked me to write the book and tell the truth about her mother’s life.
No-one could quite believe it, let alone me.
As Steve Jones Sr. said to me in one email before I’d got started with the project fully, no-one knew why his very private aunt had decided to talk to me ‘an unknown woman from the UK’ about her mother’s story.
My own guess is that Hilda Little had some sense that I was simply curious about her mother’s life. For much of her adult life, people had been more interested in talking to her about her brother Malcolm X. I wanted to talk to her about her mother Louise and I didn’t believe the prevailing narrative about what had happened to her. That narrative was well established over many years. Louise had become mentally unwell and was therefore taken to a state hospital.
Hilda told a very different story. Her belief was that her mother had been taken to the hospital unnecessarily and without anyone’s knowledge or agreement as part of a long-standing campaign to dismantle the family by the local County officials. Whilst Hilda agreed her mother had been not herself after the birth of her youngest baby, Robert, she did not recognise the characterisation of Louise’s descent into insanity as had been painted by others immediately prior to her hospitalization.
Hilda’s version of events was also referenced in her younger brother Malcolm’s own book, ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ where Malcolm wrote with Alex Haley:
‘I truly believe that if ever a state social agency destroyed a family, it destroyed ours. We wanted and tried to stay together. Our home didn’t have to be destroyed. But the Welfare, the courts, and their doctor gave us the one-two-three punch. And ours was not the only case of this kind.‘
Hilda wanted ‘The Life of Louise Norton Little’ written to expand on that destruction of Louise and her family and let the world know what an incredible woman her mother was.
I wanted to know more about Louise and unpick the narrative of her alleged sudden insanity.
Through the internet and Hilda’s nephew, Steve Jones Sr., we came together united around a cause, despite our very obvious differences.
I wrote the book with Hilda and Steve because it couldn’t have been done without either of them. I wrote the book because Hilda asked me to and I would never have presumed to do so on my own. In fact, no-one could have really because Hilda had all the primary evidence at her home in Michigan. I wrote the book because I wanted to read that book about Louise’s life.
As the mother of two Black young women, I still feel it was an odd situation for me to write this book. On the other hand, Hilda asked me to. As some kind gentleman in America has said in his book review of ‘The Life of Louise Norton Little’ on YouTube, it was a labor of love. I think he has it right.
That’s what it was.
That’s what it is.
Now, just imagine the long answer!