Analysis of “If you assign my book don’t censor it”

Mark Mathabane successfully persuades readers about the importance of leaving his book uncensored through use of strong words, great organizational structure and reasonability of his arguments.

Mathabane wrote this article at a time when teachers in certain schools had assigned the book to their students but chose to censor a crucial scene in the essay “Kaffir Boy”.

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He therefore wrote this article in response to the controversial reception of his book. He was trying to persuade teachers, school administrators, parents and other education stakeholders that the original, uncensored version of his article should be used in schools. In other words, his main audience consisted of people who had the authority to hide certain parts of his story. He needed to convince them that those very elements that they censored immediately neutralized the effect of the story and undermined its effectiveness.

The author has shown that he is a credible writer in this area. He talks about his strategy and approach to writing books. Mathabane affirms that raw emotional appeal is one of his major unique points so he intended to portray the prostitution scene just as it was. Furthermore, his clarification of the importance of that scene to the story further confirms to readers that he knows what he was writing about.

He also talks about his life as a father of three so as to illustrate to parents that he relates to their concerns. This convinces them that he understands what it means to write for children. Mathabane is aware of the controversy in his book and does not try to dissuade all educational stakeholders from their persuasions. He simply wants them to leave the book as it is without altering that crucial passage.

Mathabane appears confident as a writer because he is immensely aware of the virtues that his books represent such as honesty and clarity and these are subsequently related to the controversial passages. A reference has been made to reading list guides and other strategies that have been used to deal with objectionable material. This is obviously someone who understands the workings of his industry.

Many arguments made in the article are quite reasonable and contribute towards the overall persuasiveness of his essay. Readers are made to realize that the prostitution scene was a crucial element in the story as it had moral, thematic and schematic relevance. He explains how children can learn how to overcome peer pressure by reading that scene, how the theme of poverty is advanced through the book and how the rest of the story changes after that event.

One also gets to understand the unfairness that school authorities create when they decide for authors what readers can and cannot find in a story. By making his audience see that he was simply depicting the realities of racism, poverty and hunger in a way that children can understand, the author has shown that his choice of the scene was quite in order.

There are many strong and emotionally appealing words and sentences in this essay. The author frequently asks questions such “Should those students be deprived of what I believe is a key scene in order to make a few parents comfortable?” (Mathabane, par 8) or “could Kaffir Boy have had this impact without the prostitution scene” (Mathabane, par 16).

When he talks about his life, he uses phrases such as: “Groaning under the yoke of apartheid” and “sheer agony of frustrated hopes and strangled dreams” (Mathabane, 18). These words cause readers to relate to the gravity of the scene and hence realize its importance.

Mathabane has organized his work on the basis of importance. He first starts with a summary of the article/ scene, then refers to the controversies associated with censorship and goes on to explain why those controversies should be left as they are. At the end he even gives an alternative to censorship. One therefore appreciates the well laid out structure in his work and this also contributes towards the persuasiveness of his article

Work Cited

Mathabane, Mark. “If You Assign My Book, Don’t Censor it.” Washington Post, 28 Nov. 1999. Web. Accessed 11 Jul. 2011