CAS READS Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Our book club read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: This epic of a man’s explanation of how he became invisible and why he is now underground is one of the most brilliant, tragic, elucidating books on the Black experience in America. Ellison dissects paternalism. In his pocket, the invisible man carries the visual relics of how he is seen by mainstream Americans, as a paper Samba doll, as a chain link that was used to enslave thousands of intelligent men and women, based on race. These concrete objects are his burden. They blind those who look at him, which is their failure at vision and undoing of their moral fiber. We cannot turn a blind eye.

We are all invisible to those who are spiritually unable or mechanically refuse to look beyond our circumstances, into who we are as single, ejected-from-the-womb human beings. This book is unforgettable. It makes us look into our own blindnesses, our own projections, our own reactions to violence. What do we do? Destroy or corroborate? Or, do we contemplate, until we have an answer? Will we be given the luxury of time and seclusion to “figure it out”?

We had a wonderful discussion and read aloud important passages in our discussion. Big thanks to Helen for her critical questions and curiosity that kept the conversation and reading going at a clip, and Thomas and Brian for sharing their ideas, and to Ash for jumping into a difficult book.

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Animal Farm by George Orwell

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What a powerful fable of how a manifesto written by the animals for the animals goes awry.  Just under 100 pages, Orwell blasts us with a vision of how egalitarian values can slowly slip away, if there is no ability to read, write, or remember on the part of the collective.  Slowly, the pigs take over and rule. Then one pig, aptly named Napolean, performs a coup d’etat, ousting the other pig, Snowball, turning him into the arch enemy of the farm. Napolean leads autocratically, fueled by greed. And slowly, the animals who had built their own government collectively begin to be dominated by Naploean, who little by little alters their manifesto, with very little notice or resistance.  A classic and a must-read for everyone who cares about equality and democracy and free thinking.