Though Haley is ostensibly a ghostwriter on the , modern scholars tend to treat him as an essential and core collaborator who acted as an invisible figure in the composition of the work. He minimized his own voice, and signed a contract to limit his authorial discretion in favor of producing what looked like verbatim copy. However, Malcolm X biographer considers this view of Haley as simply a ghostwriter as a deliberate narrative construction of black scholars of the day who wanted to see the book as a singular creation of a dynamic leader and martyr. Marable argues that a critical analysis of the , or the full relationship between Malcolm X and Haley, does not support this view; he describes it instead as a collaboration.
The is a that outlines Malcolm X's philosophy of , , and . Literary critic and Malcolm X biographer agree that the narrative of the resembles the approach to . Augustine's and both relate the early lives of their subjects, document deep philosophical change for spiritual reasons, and describe later disillusionment with religious groups their subjects had once revered. Haley and autobiographical scholar Albert E. Stone compare the narrative to the . Author Paul John Eakin and writer Alex Gillespie suggest that part of the rhetorical power comes from "the vision of a man whose swiftly unfolding career had outstripped the possibilities of the traditional autobiography he had meant to write", thus destroying "the illusion of the finished and unified personality".