Returning to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man decades after parsing it as a college American Lit class assignment just weeks from Donald J. Trump’s inauguration is a bittersweet experience indeed.
Audible.com is offering a 30-day trial with a free download. I downloaded this American Lit classic. On the one hand, listening to narrator Joe Morton's richly dramatic reading of Ellison's explication of a black man's journey through the middle of the last century brings back youthful memories of a time when real progress in America’s racial relations seemed right at our doorstep.
But then, just as the nation’s first black president prepares to leave the White House, only to be replaced by a man whose campaign took particular pride in inflaming racial hatred, much of American black life seems just as “invisible” to the larger—read “white”—society as Ellison found it so long ago.
Published in 1952, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man had a profound impact on the Civil Rights movement that was gaining steam in the years that followed and stands with the best work of his contemporary black novelists, James Baldwin and Richard Wright. Indeed, it was Wright who encouraged Ellison to "write a short story," which after five years of labor became the single novel he would publish in his lifetime. A second novel, Juneteenth, was published posthumously in 1999 from 2,000 pages written by Ellison over the 40 years before his death in 1994.
Narrated in the first person by an unnamed black man looking back on his life, this lyrical work is steeped in the rural Southern culture of Ellison’s own youth, his passage through Negro college life, and into adventures in Harlem at a time of great racial and political strife. Even now, 70 years after Ellison began writing it, The Invisible Man illuminates the many obstacles African American’s still have in making themselves “visible”—to themselves and to society at large—in America’s white-dominated culture.
Particularly interesting, as America dives deep into remaking its political culture in a time of great social and political change, are the ways Ellison’s narrator—and Ellison himself—worked with and then against “The Brotherhood,” Ellison's shorthand for the Communist Party, which ultimately betrayed black American dreams in Ellison’s novel.
Don Katz, founder and CEO of Audible.com, credits Ralph Ellison for giving him the inspiration to start Audible which is the leading provider of digital spoken audio information and entertainment. Because of his admiration for Ralph Ellison, Don Katz is offering a free 30-day trial of The Invisible Man in an easy to navigate audiobooks format.
We are proud to disclose that Audible is sponsoring this post and we encourage our readers to take advantage of the free offering of this fine piece of literature or any of the many offerings found at Audible.com
Editor, LA Progressive
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.