In my previous post you may have noticed my fleeting mention of finishing the book because it was required reading for a class.... Invisible Man was also required reading for my Civil Rights Literature class.
This is another book about racism, but it is approached in a completely different manner than Coates' missive. Ellison tells the story of a young black man beginning his journey into manhood. He is leaving the south for a college in NYC. It is in this very first opportunity that his eyes start to open about the stereotypes he will encounter. The novel is very cyclical, the young man enters into a situation, is faced with an expected role he should assume, he fights against it and concludes that these imposed values limit his own personal choices. Ellison inserts his man into most typical life circumstances: college, work, organizations, love and family and portrays the prejudices a black man faces in each. He realizes that these expectations make him invisible and cause him to want to hide. Ultimately however, he understands that the only way to be recognized is to be assertive and proactive in making his voice heard apart from the crowd.
To me, Ellison's writing is empowering to everyone, but especially blacks. He encourages people to be individuals, to take charge in their identity and make a place in the world that is uniquely their own. It is a long book, and due to the regular pattern throughout it can at times feel long, but it is a timeless classic that I'd recommend to all readers.