The Randolph County Board of Education has waived its initial ban on an award-winning novel.
The Board voted to remove Ralph Ellison’s novel, “Invisible Man,” from Randolph County school libraries Sept. 16.—just days before Banned Books Week, which celebrates the freedom to read. After facing local and national criticism, however, the Board voted 6-1 to lift its ban Wednesday evening.
The initial decision to ban “Invisible Man” came into consideration after the mother of a Randolph High School junior submitted a complaint that the sexual nature of the book was too much for teenagers. The complaint included a12-page supplemental letter.
“This novel is not so innocent; instead this book is filthier, too much for teenagers," the letter read. "You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read."
All members of the Board received copies of “Invisible Man” last month, according to an article published Sept. 16 in the Courier-Tribune .
“I didn’t find any literary value. I’m for not allowing for it be available,” board member Gary Mason said during the meeting in which the ban was approved.
Ellison’s novel received the National Book Award for fiction in 1953, in addition to the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for landmark achievement in 1992.
“I applaud the parent for being proactive,” said Karen Jean Hunt, Duke librarian for African studies and African American studies. “[However], this is one of the books that the Library of Congress has named [to have] shaped America. But if someone says that their child is not ready to read something at that level or because of some religious affiliation, I’m sure the school could have worked with the individual so that it doesn’t become a school ban.”
Banned Books Week was established in 1982 and celebrates the freedom to read. The 10 most contested novels of 2012 included the “Captain Underpants” series, “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Beloved.” Banned Books Week continues through Saturday.
“People don’t take threats to intellectual freedom very lightly,” said Shannon Bailey, Chapel Hill Public Library reference librarian. “I was very pleased [that they lifted the ban].”
Bailey—who is project managing the Banned Books Week trading card project—noted that she was confused about the reasoning behind the initial ban.
"I think it was language and that it was uncomfortable for some people to read. I think that’s unfortunate," she said. "I think we should entrust our young people to make decisions for themselves and what they want to read. This is how they learn. I don’t know if we’re benefitting them by shielding them from challenging literature that might bring up some difficult issues.”
With the exception of Todd Cutler, who initially voted against the ban and stated in an email correspondence that the decision had been reverted, the members of the Board could not be reached for comment in time for publication.