Beth Ayer is a graduate student in the Professional Writing program at UMass Dartmouth, and the web editor for Changing Lives, Changing Minds.
The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster & Win More Business by Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman, banned from Texas prisons, begins with a quote from Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner:
“Every great leader is a great storyteller.”
The Elements of Persuasion aims to teach readers how to tell stories in order to “have control over [their] own work and ideas.” This book is banned with thousands of others with little explanation, according to a recent article published by the Austin American-Statesman.
There are many good questions to ask regarding why prisons ban certain books. However, one fact is indisputable: Texas prison authorities clearly believe in the power of books to impact the lives and actions of readers. They acknowledge that belief by disqualifying literature from pop fiction to work by Nobel Laureates, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners. And, of course, The Elements of Persuasion:
All successful stories have five basic components: the passion with which the story is told, a hero who leads us through the story and allows us to see it through his or her eyes, an antagonist or obstacle that the hero must overcome, a moment of awareness that allows the hero to prevail, and the transformation in the hero and in the world that naturally results.
The components of great stories, as described by Maxwell and Dickman, have unlimited potential to positively impact readers. Does being empowering qualify a book for banning?