Book #30

The Black Ball by Ralph Ellison

'If he only knew what it was, he would fix it; he would kill this mean thing that made Mama feel so bad.'

Belonging and estrangement intertwine in these four lyrical short stories from the the author of Invisible Man. 

Four very powerful short stories focusing on Black lives in twentieth century America. Each markedly different, whether it’s commentary on raising children in a racist society, visiting a new country with dark skin, or even just escaping oppression from figures of authority, each of these stories had something to say, and Ellison makes sure he says it wonderfully.

His prose is endearing in a stark and humbling fashion. We see his characters struggle, see the brutal realities they face daily, and yet some hope can be found if you look for it.

Although the stories don’t focus on racism directly, there is a constant feeling of dread looming around Ellison’s characters. A look on a train, a word from a stranger, small things strike fear in us for our characters and this contributes to a clear depiction of how life was lived by people of colour back then, and still today. As these were originally published in the forties, it really does make you wonder what humanity has done to evolve in that time. Nothing, it seems.

A wonderful introduction to Ellison for me. His style is enigmatically beautiful, despite his subject matter, and his commentary and observations are enough to provoke some deep thought. I’ll be seeking out some more Ellison in the very near future, I feel.