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This book was told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X - would I be correct saying Malcolm X...

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readeal3 | Student, Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted September 24, 2010 at 4:16 AM via web

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This book was told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X - would I be correct saying Malcolm X was the author or should I say Alex Haley?

I understand that Malcolm X is telling his life story to Alex Haley, but I'm not clear who I should say the author is - thanks

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 24, 2010 at 5:15 AM (Answer #1)

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Looking at the front cover will generally list the author's name.  If you look on the spine of the book, it usually gives the title in larger print, and the author's name below it.

If the book is an autobiography, it is usually written by the person who the story is about, and it will generally have his/her name; beneath it there will often be a note "with......"  In this case it seems that Alex Haley assembled the book (no easy task) based on interviews conducted with Malcolm X, and then wrote the epilogue and closing notes after Malcolm X's assassination.

Haley has been described on some sites as the "coauthor."

However, on the book covers I looked at on Amazon.com, the covers all appear to say the same thing:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X

Though Alex Haley took Malcolm X's words and put them to paper, the work, the ideas, the language were Malcolm X's.  The word "auto-" meaning "self," so I would use Malcolm X as the author.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 24, 2010 at 10:49 AM (Answer #2)

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This is a really interesting question.  Certainly, an argument can be made for Malcolm X being the author.  It's his autobiography, his narrative, and his voice that resonates throughout.  Yet, I think that the story is about as much Alex Haley as it is about Malcolm.  This is what helps to make the story universal.  The Epilogue is a great example of that.  Alex Haley discusses the post- Malcolm phase of his life and the social activism movement of which Malcolm was a part in a narrative and voice that is more him than anything else.  I think that the official title of the book is the "Autobiography as told to Alex Haley."  In a very odd way, this helps to bring out that the story is of Malcolm, and also of Haley, as well as anyone else who struggles to find their voice through a social process that marginalizes and silences.

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