It’s Banned Books Week Everyone! This year’s Banned Books Week will celebrate diversity in literature and explore why diverse books are more likely to be banned or challenged. Books by writers of color that are perennial targets for censors are Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian,” Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” Rudolfo Anaya’s “Bless Me Ultima” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
So today I’m going to be doing a slightly different review. I recently read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (first time reading this book, not the first time reading Morrison) and she is no stranger to censorship. The Bluest Eye was ranked as the second most banned book in the United States by the American Library Association, and has been frequently attacked for its so-called ‘pornographic’ language and content. Her other works, Beloved and Song of Solomon, have also met with calls to be removed from school libraries and reading lists. Pretty much the opposite of pornography (because I look at pornography as consensual in most cases), Toni Morrison’s works deal with the difficult subject matter of sexual and racial violence. While it makes her books a thought-provoking exploration of race and gender and led to The Bluest Eye being number 15 on the list of the most banned books between 2000-2009 according to the ALA.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Adult – Fiction / Historical Fiction
Courtesy of Goodreads: Set in the Morrison’s girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom. Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways.
Common reasons for banning and those instances
Pecola Breedlove is ugly. She will never be physically pretty, never have the pretty name, and never have the blue eyes she craves. Her ugliness is an insult to the community trying to get ahead in the world and who feel they are being held back by the ugliness of girls like Pecola Breedlove. She is trapped in poverty, teased by everyone but her two friends, raped and impregnated by her father, and then blamed by the community that only needed a reason to outright hate her.
The narrator is primarily an adult Claudia who is looking back at the tragic demise of her childhood friend, Pecola. Claudia tells the story of how Pecola eventually lost her mind and how everyone in the community is to blame because they failed her. What keeps Claudia and her sister away from Pecola when she is pulled from school for being pregnant is not their disgust with Pecola’s situation, but a feeling that they had failed her and could not face her.
This story was tougher to read than other Morrison, at least for me. It’s hard to read about father’s raping young daughters and the victim blaming attached by the community. But I think it’s also equally important to read about these things because they don’t go away just because you ignore it and I think it does a disservice to those who are suffering.
Sorry this post is so long but I tried to convey everything I wanted to without coming off as super ranty and incoherent. In other news, This is another Classics Club Book I can check off my list. For those who aren’t familiar, The Classics Club is a challenge to pick classics (at least 50) and read them all over the next 5 years. You can check out my full list here.