Our book editor, Vanessa Thomas, revisits this Toni Morrison classic, which due to its controversial subjects, has seen several attempts to ban it from schools and libraries.
I started reading this a few years ago and for whatever reason just couldn’t get into it. I tried again but this time, on holiday with nothing to distract me but buzzing insects.
The Bluest Eye is a beautifully written and complex novel by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. Published in 1970 and Morrison’s first book, the story centres on black child Pecola and her experiences growing up in 1940s America. Morrison states that this book was inspired by a primary school friend wishing she had blue eyes, it was “my effort to say something about that; to say something about why she had not, or possibly ever would have, the experience of what she possessed and also why she prayed for so radical an alteration.” Pecola is taunted for her dark skin. The community “every billboard, every movie, every glance” has deemed her and her entire family ugly because of this.
Narrated for the most part by a child character, the book highlights the implications of growing up in a society that loathes blackness and the detrimental effects this has. Quite bold for the time, Morrison addresses very serious issues, like rape and sexual abuse.
I don’t think many writers scribe with the depth and complexity that Morrison does, she truly is a unique writer (hence all the accolades and deserved success). This book may not be heavy in pages but it’s certainly not light reading, nor out of touch with beauty standards and society today.