Book by Marcia B. Baxter Magolda
Review by Jason T. Mitchell, MA
College of Medicine
University of Kentucky

Authoring Your Life raises many important questions for the young advisor just beginning a career in the field of academic advising.  The author develops a case for the process of questioning ones purview of the world around them and insists that this is an essential function of becoming a more determined professional and individual who contributes meaningfully to society.   This process as defined by the author is known as Self-Authorship.  This model is presented in such a way as to give the reader a better understanding of the “phases” involved in self-authorship with the ultimate goal of reaching self-transformation.  

Having followed a group of college students for twenty years beginning in 1986, Baxter uses a sampling of individual case studies to create a cohesive case for the notion of self-authorship.  In presenting the path to self-transformation, the author clearly defines the beginning of the process as a questioning phase of sorts.  This questioning phase of the process calls on the participant to understand the difference between the external and internal voices involved in daily life.  The external voices as described by the author are those voices or formulas with which we have been raised or taught from early developmental stages.  According to Baxter, these voices and formulas caused her study participants to often times succumb to the norm in life situations because it was what was familiar.  Internal voices as presented in the text were those voices that call into question what is familiar or ingrained.  The internal voices are responsible for helping one develop their own self-awareness.  For an advisor who is just beginning his or her career this notion is tantamount to developing self-awareness as an academic professional.  The author reminds the reader that is imperative when beginning the process of self-authorship to be open to questioning external voices as a way of trusting one’s internal voice in life situations.  According to the author, once these internal voices are developed and trusted, internal commitments are developed and thus are important facets of becoming a more independent thinker and contributor to society.  

As a means of practical application the author presents these case studies in such a way as to frame them for consideration in the reader’s present situation.  What is impressive in this study is the diverse sampling of participants and their backgrounds.  This allows for the reader to ultimately find application for various facets of daily life while involved in the process of self-authorship  For the young advisor who is just beginning their career, these case studies should be an important part of the text.  The examples given are concise and directed at the facets of life which seem to generally affect persons at the “early career” phase of life.  In presenting the various examples, the author does express slight frustration in the notion that some of the participants struggled to relinquish the reliance on external formulas and voices, and rather allowed them to continually influence decisions and connections both personally and professionally.  

This book should be considered an essential addition to the library for the young professional just entering a career in academic advising.   The emphasis placed on developing the skills to become a more independent thinker is essential to understanding the needs of college and university students who are in the early stages of understanding the complexities of becoming successful contributors to society as a whole.

Authoring your life: Developing an internal voice to navigate life’s challenges.  (2009). Book by Marcia B. Baxter Magolda. Review by Jason T. Mitchell, MA. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing,  380pp., $29.95, ISBN # 978-1-57922-271-0
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