A North Carolina school board has banned Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man from its reading list on Monday, citing a lack of “literary value.”
The Asheboro Courier-Tribune reported that the Randolph County Board of Education voted 5-2 to remove the book following a complaint by a parent, Kimiyutta Parson.
“This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers,” Parson wrote in a 12-page statement to the board. “You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read, without their knowledge. This book is freely in your library for them to read.”
In his acceptance speech after winning the National Book Award for Fiction in 1953, Ellison described the book as his attempt to bring back “the mood of personal moral responsibility for democracy” common in 19th-century fiction.
“When I examined the rather rigid concepts of reality which informed a number of the works which impressed me and to which I owed a great deal, I was forced to conclude that for me and for so many hundreds of thousands of Americans, reality was simply far more mysterious and uncertain, and at the same time more exciting, and still, despite its raw violence and capriciousness, more promising,” Ellison said at the time.
However, board chair Tommy McDonald said on Monday that he considered Ellison’s work — one of three books recommended for summer reading for juniors at a local high school, alongside “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin and “Passing” by Nella Larsen — “a hard read.”
A motion to keep Invisible Man on the approved reading list was defeated 5-2 before the board voted to remove it.
“I didn’t find any literary value,” board member Gary Mason said at the meeting. “I’m for not allowing it to be available.”
In 2010, Time magazine named the book one of the top 100 English-language novels of all time, calling it “the quintessential American picaresque of the 20th century.”
[Image of Ralph Ellison, circa 1961, via Wikipedia Commons]