Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1950
An overwhelming reading experience, as Ellison and his unnamed narrator encounter the eternal questions of identity, power, self-definition, cultural and temporal constraints, and the ability of literature to describe these currents. A 561 page novel that sweeps from the segregated Jim Crow South to the de facto segregated Harlem and NYC, the protagonist deals with his elevation from the ‘battle royal’ in his hometown to the private all Black college with its Founder, Dr. Bledsoe, and Mr. Norton the trustee, to Harlem with its paint factory, Brotherhood and Brother Jack, and the Black nationalist Ras with the ultimate race riot. The power of Ellison’s narrative is that the issue of police shooting Black men is as alive today as it was for Tod Clifton on 42nd Street near the NYPL in 1950. America continues to struggle with the race question. A good place to start the dialogue and resolution would be to require Invisible Man as reading in our schools and communities. A truly powerful and moving book.