COLUMN: Celebrate Day Three of Forbidden Book Week with “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
This is the third column in a weeklong series celebrating Forbidden Book Week, which celebrates the freedom to read. Each column will review a different frequently contested book.
“The bluest eye” by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison is high on my list of admirable writers because her style doesn’t remind me of anyone else. But because of that, she is reminiscent of the words of another notable writer.
“We see more intensely afterwards; the world seems stripped of its blanket and endowed with a more intense life, ”writes Virginia Woolf, discussing the books she finds important in her work,“ A Room of One’s Own ”.
Woolf’s words clutter my head every time I finish reading Morrison’s prose. His writing is so practiced and his stories so vivid that it really feels like a reader perceives the world more intensely at the end of his work.
“The Bluest Eye” is Morrison’s first novel, published in 1970 and still on the list of the top 10 most contested books of last year according to the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Office.
The novel covers wrongdoing that deserves to be banned – namely incest and assault – but the story itself does not deserve to be. Morrison expertly juggles different facets of the characters while maintaining a central voice to make the storytelling cohesive. And that’s just the beginning of the praise this work deserves.
It tells the story of Pecola, a young black girl who grew up in Ohio in the 1940s, over four seasons. Readers see the pervasive influence of racism in the character’s psyche, and Morrison adds a story about complex black characters to a Western literary canon that too often lacks proper portrayal.
My experience with Morrison’s work has covered some uncomfortable topics, but that doesn’t mean we should stop reading them. Fiction is about expanding our consciousness, and there is no one who does it better than her.
Morrison is widely recognized for his ability to comment on racial pain without sacrificing the inclusion of joy. “The Blueest Eye” fits perfectly into this skill set.
His stories are evocative, his word choice is intentional, and I cannot read his work without a pen in my hand to jot them down. His commentary on the art of writing often covers the idea of words as a vehicle or as a threat, tools left to the author to decide direction.
She handles the words brilliantly in “The Bluest Eye”, beginning the first chapter with a play about the classic Dick and Jane story, a device she echoes over the pages to juxtapose a stereotypical happy childhood with this what it means to grow up as a young black girl in an abusive family in the midwestern 20th century.
My Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, the collection that houses my copy of “The Bluest Eye,” prefaces the story by noting an early review it received. He “responded to the metaphorical richness of (“ The Blueest Eye ”) by explaining that it is as much about“ history, sociology, folklore, nightmare and music ”as it is fiction.
Morrison exists as a role model in every field.