This book is a classic that I’ve known about for many years but am just getting around to reading. I’m glad I finally did. Ralph Ellison truly was a literary genius. So many metaphors that still ring true today (fortunately and unfortunately). In the search for identity and in striving for growth and progress, Black people in America have met conflict on every level of human existence. There is the inner turmoil of the individual to determine his or her path to living a good and productive life. There is the struggle of the neighborhood to determine the best way to project its identity and support life for its residents. Then there is the struggle of a people for the definition of who they should be; who they should become; and finally how they should get there.
Ellison artfully summarizes the modern reality of a people in the thoughts and daily experiences of a nameless young man who grapples with the state of his American existence as he strives for self-actualization.
I had the pleasure of reading the hard copy and consuming the audio version of “Invisible Man” narrated by Joe Morton. In a word, Morton’s performance is masterful. It is well worth the time.
I felt like this book was a creative vision into my own life. Though my own path has not been as wrought with that same outer conflict as that of Ellison’s invisible main character, I directly relate to his inner struggles for self identity. The challenges that a talented young man finds in defining his role within the Black community as he strives to improve himself in a society dominated by White people and their opinions (of the Black community) ring true.
As America is as racially polarized as its ever been in modern times, I believe books like this one can be a healing balm for the masses. It’s important that we move beyond the antiquated “color blind” approach to getting along. Color blindness implies that one only desires to see our similarities. That limits the potential of what we can be together as citizens and friends. We have to finally embrace the value of our differences as well as what we have in comon. In addition to seeing ourselves in the art we consume, we need to explore that which gives us real insight to the lives of people who are different from us. We need to actually know their struggles and acknowledge their contributions. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison is a great start.