Welcome to this month’s Banned Books feature. This month we read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author’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.
What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment. The Bluest Eye remains one of Tony Morrisons’s most powerful, unforgettable novels- and a significant work of American fiction.
First published: 1970
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
Addition reasons: “contains controversial issues.”
Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?
BETH: This is one of our “older,” books on our banned books list, having being published in 1970. It’s quite interesting that it still makes the frequently challenged list as recently as last year but as I realised, there are some issues in the book, described as controversial (which I certainly agree with). Because of these issues which I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t read it, I do see why it may be challenged as some parts are slightly risque but I found the whole reading experience so beautiful and I don’t think it should be taken away from anyone.
CHRISSI: I totally understand why it was banned at that time. As Beth mentioned, it is one of our ‘older’ books and for the time period it certainly must have been a controversial read. However, I do think it is beautifully written though, covering topics that yes, may be risque and a little disturbing but are important to be read.
How about now?
BETH: Definitely not now. I can’t believe this was Toni Morrison’s debut novel, the writing is so assured and quite touching in points. I enjoyed reading about Pecola Breedlove (excellent name, by the way) and think it addresses some very important issues, particularly about race, that older children should definitely be exposed to. In the right hands, this book could be an excellent teaching tool in the classroom and the writing is too wonderful not to be shared.
CHRISSI: In the classroom, it would certainly be a great teaching tool about many issues, but it would have to be used sensitively. Teenagers should definitely be exposed to the language and the issues within the story. I imagine it would bring up so much discussion and debate, which would be fantastic. It didn’t feel too dated for me either, considering the age of the book.
What did you think of this book?
BETH: I absolutely loved it. It’s a great introduction to Toni Morrison’s work and although it’s fairly short, it’s a novella to be savoured where every single word she writes says something important to the reader.
CHRISSI: I thought it was a good, thought provoking read. I enjoyed reading it!
Would you recommend it?
BETH: But of course!