Make believe: a true story
Sex, Race, and Politics are all at the heart of this extraordinary account of the short life and violent death of Hakim Jamal. A black American radical who was born Alan Donaldson in a Boston ghetto and reborn in prison as a follower of Malcolm X, Hakim took the movie star Jean Seberg as lover, wrote and published the story of his life, and finally came to believe that he was God. Diana Athill, a well known British editor, liked the man in Hakim, and saw the book in his life. She became his friend, briefly his lover, and then watched with dismay as he slowly destroyed his prospects, alienated his friends, and exploited his young English girlfriend, Gail Benson, the daughter of a Member of Parliament. Benson changed her name to Hale Kimga to please Hakim and followed him to Trinidad, where she was brutally murdered in 1972. The crime caused a sensation at the time and was later incorporated by V.S. Naipual in his novel, Guerrillas. Hakim himself was shot to death in Boston a few years later, and not long afterward Jean Seberg killed herself in Paris. But from this sad cautionary tale it is the voice of Diana Athill that the reader may best remember - cool, direct, vivid, honest, unblinking. There are no false words or emotions here, simply the spare and moving narrative of a man who found and lost himself in the span of a few years. Athill is English, but she has written one of the enduring accounts of the burdens of race in America.
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