Curator Reviews

David Copperfield

Ralph Ellison's classic about race, racism, cruelty, hypocrisy, and the need for the truth is more relevant now than ever.

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William Finnegan

Invisible Man has become something of an invisible book. It’s an American masterpiece and a pure, if searing, joy to read. Published in 1952, it dramatizes the doubleness of black life in America in a raucous, outrageous saga, as its unnamed narrator makes the Great Migration north to New York. “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” Its brilliance is distinctly midcentury, though, and Ellison, once a Marxist firebrand, became an arch elitist, doing his book no favors with his disdain for popular struggles around race and inequality. But the vitality of Invisible Man is undiminished, and its most caustic insights into American life still painfully relevant.

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Samantha Power

“I am an invisible man,” Ellison writes, “When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.” As a Black man in America, Ellison’s narrator grapples not only with racism and exclusion, but ubiquitous moral blindness about the enduring legacies of slavery, racial violence, and bigotry.

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