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North Carolina school board reconsiders banning Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”

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Randolph County, N.C. is reconsidering a ban on Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” a novel that focuses on black identity in the first half of the 20th century.

In a 5-2 vote this week, the Randolph County School Board of Education banned the book from county school libraries after the mother of an 11-grader complained. The mother claimed Ellison’s work was inappropriate for 11th grade summer reading, citing both language and subject matter.

In response, Board members each received a copy of the novel to assess for themselves. According to The Courier-Tribune of Asheboro, N.C., at Monday’s meeting, the board chair rejected “Invisible Man” as a “hard read,” and another member stated he couldn’t “find any literary value” in it. But the board’s ban upset local residents and gained national attention — even some international attention. The Courier-Tribune reported that the story appeared on Russian TV.

It is unclear whether the outcry caused the board to schedule a special session as no reason was given for the reconsideration, but the board will meet again Wednesday, Sept. 25 to discuss the ban.

Ellison’s novel won the U.S. National Book Award in 1953 and was identified by the Library of Congress as one of the “books that shaped America.”

H/T Victoria Fleischer

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