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Anti-Oppression Book Club

Spring/Summer 2022

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Upcoming discussion meetings (2:00pm-3:15pm):

AudioBook (Free on YouTube)

Discussion Prompts and Points to Ponder

Selected from Penguin Random House Audio Publishing:

1. The narrator's grandfather tells him to "overcome 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to death and destruction, let 'em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open." [p. 16] How does the narrator's interpretation of this advice change during the course of the novel? Do you feel that Dr. Bledsoe shares the grandfather's philosophy? What about Tod Clifton? And what about Rinehart?

2. The town leaders at the battle royal tell the narrator, "We mean to do right by you, but you've got to know your place at all times." [p. 31] What kind of help are the men actually offering? What "place" in the world do they plan for young black people? Is there any real benevolence included in their wish to dominate?

3. Ellison carefully lays out the geography of the state college for Negroes, with its whitewashed buildings, its black powerhouse, the barren road leading to the insane asylum, and the nearby shanties of the "black belt." How does this map symbolize the idealistic vision of the school and the hard realities of black life which the school's philosophy attempts to deny?

4. How does Invisible Man react when he is told he will be concentrating on "the woman question"? How are women as a group treated in the novel?

5. Invisible Man wonders what value personal integrity can have in his cynical world. Does it seem to you that it is possible to retain one's integrity while dealing with the likes of Dr. Bledsoe or Brother Jack? Do any of the book's characters in fact retain their integrity?

Selection Of This Semester

From Wikipedia:  Invisible Man is a novel by Ralph Ellison, published by Random House in 1952. It addresses many of the social and intellectual issues faced by African Americans in the early twentieth century, including black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marxism, and the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington, as well as issues of individuality and personal identity.

Invisible Man won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953, making Ellison the first African American writer to win the award.[2] In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Invisible Man 19th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.[3] Time magazine included the novel in its 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list, calling it "the quintessential American picaresque of the 20th century," rather than a "race novel, or even a bildungsroman."[4] Malcolm Bradbury and Richard Ruland recognize an existential vision with a "Kafka-like absurdity."[5] According to The New York Times, Barack Obama modeled his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father on Ellison's novel.[6]

Further Materials