Randolph County in North Carolina recently voted to ban Ralph Ellison’s classic 1952 novel Invisible Man from school libraries over its portrayal of mature topics like sex and rape. Why? Kathi Keys at the Courier-Tribune reports that Kimiyutta Parson, the parent of a local high-schooler, submitted a “complaint” outlining in great, and often bizarre, detail how the National Book Award-winning novel “is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers.”
Parson’s full complaint, which is twelve pages long, is a masterpiece of missing the point. In it she discusses dozens of passages where characters have sex, commit rape, and navigate questions of human morality within Jim Crow-era America—all of which she condemns, sweepingly, as “filthy.” We’ve highlighted a few choice excerpts below.
Regarding a character named Trueblood, who rapes his daughter:
The rape supposedly began when Trueblood claimed he had a strange dream and woke to find himself on top of his daughter, having sex with her, or now is done. To describe how good it feels to him, however he knows is wrong, Trueblood uses metaphors as well, as he's describing the raping in his sleep, that’s truly happening with his daughter in reality.
The narrator expresses that this is a morbid, voyeuristic fascination to listen to, about a strange man speaking of committing unspeakable taboo of incest, but he just had to finish hearing him out.
Regarding the narrator’s discussion of rape:
After Trueblood recounts his story of raping his daughter in the same bed next to his wife, the white founder of the university, Norton, gives Trueblood $100, to buy toys for his children. Which makes Trueblood laugh and say, that now in his older years, after it’s known he’s raped this child and got her pregnant, Trueblood states that he receives more attention and charity, than when his family was simply poor and not well known.
And this is just one of two times so far, that this writer goes into too much information about him and rape. The second encounter in this book was his own personal experience with a woman, who he says wanted the rape...she wanted it; because she asked for it.
Regarding the possibility of Trueblood’s daughter bearing an “abomination baby” (Parson’s term):
In the next paragraph, Trueblood says his wife awakened. They all physically fought because he wouldn't leave the family, She later retrieve her Aunt Chloe and a few friends to come after him. Be locked them out, except for his wife and daughter. The wife explains that the girl could get pregnant with his abomination baby over the sin and everyone would know. Trueblood states that he didn't think about that, but now there is nothing he can do about it. so in ways they should learn to live with the rape, and possibly a new baby too.
After quoting the novel at length, Parson ends her complaint: “Lastly, this novel should not be in your library therefore it should be removed immediately.”
And, sadly, it was. Prompted by her complaint, Randolph County’s school board voted, 5-2, to remove the book from school property, with one board member, Gary Mason, arguing: “I didn’t find any literary value.”
The entire complaint is embedded below:
[Image via Random House]