In celebration of Banned Books Week, a North Carolina school board banned Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. Read NPR's report here.
Ralph Ellison's novel is a bildungsroman about an African-American who gradually loses his naivete about racism during the Harlem Renaissance. My students find it to be a difficult read, sometimes because of Ellison's highly-descriptive and poetic style, sometimes because of the frustrating innocence of the protagonist.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Invisible Man in his apartment with stolen light.
Photo: Jeff Wall[/caption]
We spend weeks unpacking the novel. My students learn literary criticism through their research on Ellison and the Harlem Renaissance. They learn how to analyze a work for its motifs. They learn that syntax can be symbolic. They learn that writers can be eerily prophetic. At the end of it all, we are exhausted but better for our journey through Ellison's graphically-depicted world.
I hope that my students will better appreciate literature knowing that there will always be authority figures who wish to keep it from them. I hope they ask questions, many questions, of themselves and the authority figures in their lives. I hope they find at least one book that makes them think, grow. . .and want to change the world for the better.
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