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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
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Mar 31, 12

bookshelves: book-club-books
Read in November, 2010

A wonderful novel, though a bit long-winded, this is a journey into what it meant to be black in America during Jim Crow. I know, you ask, but a lot of writers did that, what makes this one different? And in some ways, it's not. It's still the story of the struggle of a young person of color in a white dominated culture. But at the same time, Invisible Man goes about it slightly differently. Our protagonist, the man without a name, goes from boyhood in the deep south, where he is wins a scholarship to an all-black college. He does his best to fit in and do well, but he isn't proficient in the arts of manipulation or the knowledgeable in the ways white culture dominated black culture even in an all-black college setting. He makes mistakes, trusts the wrong people, and opens himself up to being a patsy.

You'd think that once he left college he'd have learned his lesson, but he falls into the communist party and becomes their poster child. During this part of the novel, you may well ask, but how is he invisible if he's making all these speeches and getting all this attention? Of course, Ellison is clever in how he writes this part. He's invisible because he could have been any black kid up there making speeches, he was the face of the movement, not a person in his own right. It happens repeatedly, with personal encounters and with public encounters. And when he finally becomes his own man, he drops out of sight all together. He is invisible, and only realizes later that he always was invisible.

And excellent read, Ellison is long winded in some parts and this could have used a bit of trimming to make a more efficient plot. Nonetheless, Ellison weaves a heartfelt and poignant story that will leave you wondering who else in this world is invisible? I think the answer may be quite disturbing if we think about it too much.

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