Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2015 - (Page 36)
off the shelf
by Ralph Ellison
Review by Mimi Silverstein
Invisible Man is a story about the
effects of racism and other social
power dynamics on the individual,
told from the unique perspective of
one man who is never given a name.
I'll call him Invisible.
He begins his story in the deep
south of the 1930s, where he
graphically describes a battle royal
in which young black men, himself
included, are forced to fight for the
amusement of white town leaders.
When Invisible conforms to their
ideal of a model black citizen, the
white men give him a scholarship to a college where he is indoctrinated into a philosophy that blacks shouldn't work toward social
equality. Believing that this college is the key to his success, Invisible
is shocked when he is expelled for allowing a white trustee to see
parts of the school that the administration would prefer to hide.
Sent to New York, he begins a journey that takes him from shunning his southern black roots to making speeches in Harlem for
equality as part of a Communist organization. Ultimately, the Communist group proves not to be working for the best interests of the
people of Harlem, and Invisible ends up disillusioned, but ready to
share his own ideals.
I was amazed at how similar the events described in this book,
written in the 1940s, are to events today. In one instance, a friend of
Invisible's is shot by police after resisting arrest for selling toys without
a permit-reminiscent of what happened to Eric Garner, and to many
other blacks. After the character's death, some fight back against the
injustice, often with violence and destruction of property, while others
choose to focus on the offensive nature of the toys he sold.
Invisible Man goes beyond commentary on racism to explore
microaggressions and stereotypes. When a well-meaning white man
asks Invisible to sing and dance for him, a socially conscious woman
reproaches the man for assuming this stereotype of a black entertainer. Invisible, however, wonders if there might be a polite way to
ask black people to sing and dance.
At no point does Ellison insist that stereotypes are always bad,
and that allows the book to go deeper. Invisible wonders why he
should be angry that a white man asked him to perform. Instead of
feeding us morals, Ellison lets an authentic voice ponder the meanings
of these complex issues so we can think about how they affect us.
The questions raised in Invisible Man aren't limited to racism,
though. Much of the book is about power dynamics in general, as it
explores relationships between people of different backgrounds, ages,
positions, and sexes. For example, the protagonist's limited views on
women contrast starkly with his deep examination of racially charged
relationships, imploring us to examine the intersections of different
forms or systems of oppression, domination, and discrimination.
This book does an incredible job of addressing the complexities
of social justice and human interaction, and I recommend it to anyone interested in either of those things-and especially to anyone
interested in both. n
mimi Silverstein is a junior at the Masters School in
Dobbs Ferry, NY. She is active in her school's GSA
and feminist clubs, and she loves reading, writing, and
making all sorts of art. In her free time, she attempts to
play guitar and do aerial circus arts and theater.
Full Tilt by Neil Shusterman
Having enjoyed many of Shusterman's more recent books such as
the Unwind series, I went looking for some earlier ones. This one,
with its fast-moving plot and sometimes actually scary scenes,
turned out to be my favorite of all. Along with two of his friends,
16-year-old Blake has to venture to a mysterious carnival to rescue his younger brother. But the catch is that he has to ride seven
rides-all related to his deepest fears-before dawn. This book is
the definition of "thriller."
-Eugene Lai, 15, MI
The Diviners by Libby Bray
The Diviners promises everything you could wish for in a novel set
in 1920s New York City, including speakeasies, bootleg whiskey, and
flappers. But darker forces are at work. A string of murders is taking
place, all counting down to a mysterious cult ritual. With danger
lurking around every corner, the fearless heroine Evie O'Neil tries to
solve the case without becoming the next headline murder.
-Lilith Frakes, 15, PA
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2015
In My Own Words Daniel Kammen, Professor of Energy, UC Berkeley
A Solar-Powered Solution to the Water Crisis Using the sun to purify water
The PolluCell Generating electricity using waste and pollution
More than a Race The Solar Car Challenge
Energy Agenda The power of teen research
Energized! A crash course in fuels of the future
Grease Is Good Helping the environment and the community with biofuel
Fueled by Algae Sara Volz and the powerful potential of pond scum
The Future of Energy Five careers in green power
My Sanskrit Yaatra Connecting with my culture through language
Devoted Awareness My internship with Until There’s a Cure
Selected Opportunities and Resources
Off the Shelf Review of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
Exploring Career Options Interview with green architect Andrew Thompson
One Step Ahead Six things incoming college students should know
Planning Ahead for College Developing your passions
Students Review: University of Pennsylvania
Creative Minds Imagine
Mark Your Calendar
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2015