The literary canon is responsible for categorizing various forms of literature: African-American Lit, Caribbean Lit, American Lit, Native American Lit, etc. However, no one knows who determines which authors go into which category. What’s an even bigger mystery is the labeling of Penguin classics. Penguin classic are books that everyone has read and are considered books that matter to society. Some penguin classics are Tom Sawyer, Aurora Leigh, Beowulf, The Crucible, Moby Dick, Wuthering Heights, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Notice that none of these authors are Black. Actually, they probably are about 1 or 2 Black authors on the entire list. Now the question is why aren’t there more Black author’s works on the list?
Author’s like Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes, Toni Cade Bambara, and W.E.B Dubois have all written works of fiction that capture not only Black culture, but also American. However, American society doesn’t seem to think they are classics. What society has failed to recognize is that American society cannot exist without Black history and society. American society was particularly built on the bones of Black people. Instead of society embracing this truth, they chose to banned some of the best well-written novels in African-American literature.
In case you have never heard of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, maybe you know his other work Juneteenth. Ellison died 1994 in New York. However, before his death, he immortalized Black men within his novel Invisible Man. Invisible Man gives a strong portrayal of what it’s like to be a Black man in 1952. This book is considered brilliant because of the way it is written. Throughout the entire book, the protagonist is not given a name or image. All you really know about the protagonist are his thoughts and you are only shown what he sees. The standpoint of the reads allows for Ellison to show how limited, confused, and socially abused Black men were. However, not everyone thinks this is a work of “literary value.”
A mother in Randolph County, North Carolina wrote a letter expressing her dismay for the novel. She believes it to be “filthy” and “way too much for teenagers.” However, she probably doesn’t object to her child having full access to the internet or television. The novel has now been banned from the school’s library
Links to read: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/invisible-man-banned_n_3953740.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Books) & (http://www.januarymagazine.blogspot.com/2013/09/national-book-award-winning-invisible.html).
Now Ellison’s novel may have had it’s first ban but Toni Morrison’s the Bluest Eye has been banned from 17 schools across the U.S. The Bluest Eye is about an eleven year old girl named Pecola who prays to have blue eyes so that she could be beautiful. Parents are angered that this novel was apart of their children’s reading list because the book depicts scenes of rape, incest, and abuse. Yes, this book has all of this within it, but the author has written in a way in which the entire novel almost sounds like a poem. The Bluest Eye is Morrison’s first novel published in 1970. This novel is an absolute masterpiece. However, parents feel that it is inappropriate for their 11th grade children to read. Some have even considered it “pornographic.” If one discussed, digest, and analysed this novel properly then they would see that Morrison is depicting a Black girl who has gone through a lot of hardships in her life and all she wants is to be beautiful. Beautiful to her is having blue eyes.
Some have compared Morrison’s novel to Sapphire’s “Precious.” There is no comparison between these two novels. Morrison’s novel is simply better and crafted to perfection. Sapphire’s is more raw and explicit. Her novel takes away from all imagination.
Why is American society trying to hide the stories of Black men and women; Black girls and boys. These stories need to be read and told. They should be considered Penguin classics and instead of grouping them in African-American literature, it should be considered American literature because American society has everything to do with the ideologies within these novels.