How a North Carolina County Board of Ed Made An “Invisible Man” Invisible
The Asheboro Courier-Tribune recently reported that North Carolina’s Randolph County Board of Education voted to remove Ralph Ellison’s critically acclaimed novel, Invisible Man, from its reading list. The 5-2 decision came as a response to a complaint filed by a Randleman High School parent who claimed the novel “is filth[y], too much for teenagers,” and “not so innocent.”
Originally published in 1952, Invisible Man chronicles the life of an unnamed black male protagonist facing social inequality in the early twentieth century. But for county board chair Tommy McDonald, the book, assigned to high school juniors for summer reading, was “a hard read.” Another board member, Gary Mason, said, “I didn’t find any literary value. I’m not for allowing it to be available.”
To accept this, we would have to forget that this novel is considered one of the top 100 English-language novels of all time, or that the novel won Ellison the National Book Award for Fiction in 1953. Or that Ellison taught at Rutgers, New York, and Yale Universities, won a National Medal of Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And we’d certainly have to forget that he wrote one of the most memorable first paragraphs ever put to print:
I am an invisible man.
No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.
That’s right Mr. Mason, no literary value whatsoever.
(h/t The Raw Story)
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