Unfortunately, I am not writing this post because I have finished my second book yet. Perhaps even better, I am writing because I do have good news that I just had to share. News that couldn’t have come at a better time considering that this week is Banned Books Week.
I was reading through my publishing newsletters that I get at work yesterday when I read something that made my heart jump with happiness in Shelf Awareness. The Randolph County Board of Education in North Carolina decided to take back it’s ban on INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison. Just ten days ago, they joined many other school districts when they decided to the ban the book. That decision sparked much uproar with the public and civil rights unions which forced the board to re-think their decision, giving them a chance to correct their mistake. I am not only happy about this because I am a big fan of Ralph Ellison but because I believe that any type of restriction on education is unjust.
First, INVISIBLE MAN is a really good book and I don’t like the idea of other people missing out on that. Ellison was an incredibly gifted writer who’s talent should be widely shared. Just because you may not agree with something or someone, or just because you don’t want to talk or think about certain things, doesn’t mean that you should reduce it’s value or quality. Many aspiring writers or literature experts (librarians, professors, book reviewers) could learn a lot from reading Ellison. His craftsmanship and style are unique to his time period, an essential part of growing up in the early 20th century. His success at making scenes come a live, making characters a reality, and jamming pages full of being into just a few sentences is aspiring. To better yourself as a writer, reader, or critic- you need to read Ellison.
Second, and most importantly, is that like all the other books on the banned books list INVISIBLE MAN is an integral part of history and education. I have learned way more about history through my literature classes than I ever did in any actual history class I have taken. Many writers write from their own experiences and stories they heard. They write from emotion and with a deeper understanding of reality. Being able to spit out dates of battle, names of movements, or important historical figures is great. But what about what it was like to live a normal everyday life during that given time period? What were people like you and me going through? Literature has your answer.
I’m not really sure what there isn’t to like about INVISIBLE MAN or what’s so offensive. It’s a story about accepting yourself for who you are even when it seems like the rest of the world is against you. It’s about standing up for yourself and for what you believe in. It certainly isn’t a pretty story or something you would want to talk to a five-year-old about. But, it is a part of our history that cannot be ignored. The everyday struggles that minorities continue to go through in this country shouldn’t be suppressed. I don’t care what your opinion is- the fact is that everything INVISIBLE MAN stands for was our world’s reality, and its still very much our reality today in many of the same and different ways. Why would we want to forbid our children from learning this? Yes, we can read our boring textbooks about court case after court case, injustice after injustice but what about reading from people that actually experienced these very injustices and overcame these very struggles? I promise you that nothing will resonate more. Even if the story itself is not true- the values, struggles, obstacles, and emotions are. It really breaks my heart to know that there are many students out there who aren’t getting this priceless experience. Books like these have greatly changed my outlook on life and exposed me to a world beyond my very own small personal bubble. Books like these have taken my education to a level I could have never imagined when I first stepped foot on my Alma Mater’s campus and I am glad a few more students will now get to have that same experience.