Banned Books Week & Diversiverse: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

September 22, 2014 Banned Books, Diversiverse, Psychological 20

Hey there, Bookworms!

It’s one of my FAVORITE weeks of the whole year. That’s right kiddos, it’s BANNED BOOKS WEEK! This week I’m going to be basking in the glory of books that have been banned and challenged. I’m planning to, as my friend Shelli is fond of saying, “feed two birds with one scone” (because why would you want to kill the birds?) and chose banned books by authors of color. It’s a Banned Books Week/Diversiverse hootenanny up in here!


I’m going to start this party with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It is challenged ALL THE TIME. A few pages into the novel and it’s clear why. You’ve got naughty language, sex, booze, alcoholism, incest, child molestation, rape, domestic violence, bullying, poverty, and basically every other horrible thing people do to break each other. Why you gotta bruise my soul, Toni?!  The Bluest Eye is a book designed to make you uncomfortable. How could it not? The fact that it makes people uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s without value though. Not by a long shot!
thbluesteyeThe vast majority of book banning and challenging takes place with regard to school curriculum. This book is not an easy read, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it aloud to a 4th grade class. (I do have some common sense, I promise.) I would, however, defend The Bluest Eye as a choice for an advanced high school English class.I know, I know. I don’t have kids. I was, however, a teenager, and I remember that whole experience keenly.

As far as profanity goes, I heard more casual swearing in my high school hallways than I have anywhere in my adult life. I knew kids who would drop F-bombs to punctuate phrases the way I’d say “like.” I know what you’re thinking! “I don’t mind the profanity, Katie, but what about all the sex and incest and violence and general horribleness?” To which I respond, “Why, this book is chock full of cautionary tales!” All the things you should NOT do in order to be a decent human being are represented. It’s also got a hefty dose of what I like to call getting-inside-other-people’s-crazy-heads. For every broken psyche, you find out what happened to the character that contributed to their particular problems. Empathy! Teenagers need it!

My teenage self would have eaten this up. You know what was not at all interesting to my teenage self? A ginormous book about a freaking whale. Kids get burned out with all the classics. That doesn’t mean they’re without value either, but changing it up every now and again with something that’ll make a teenager’s jaw drop? That’s amazing. Take your pitchforks elsewhere, book banners, The Bluest Eye is here to stay! On the off chance you know nothing (Jon Snow), here’s a little about Toni Morrison:

Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), is an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of “The 30 Most Powerful Women in America” by Ladies’ Home Journal.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Are there any books you wish you’d been assigned to read in school? Is there a classic you’ll hate forever on principle because you were forced to read it? Inquiring minds and all that…

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20 Responses to “Banned Books Week & Diversiverse: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison”

  1. Nish

    Whoa, are we thinking along the same lines or what. I too selected The Bluest Eye for this week’s diversiverse. Unfortunately, couldn’t get into it fully. I ended up stopping and then picking up something else. I will get to it eventually.

    Last year I read Beloved, and it was very similar too.

  2. Jancee Wright

    I love Banned Books Week, but I don’t think I’ll be able to read much for it this week. 🙁 So much going on! Let me know how you like The Bluest Eye – it keeps making the list as one of the all-time most challenged books, but I’ve never gotten around to it.

    • Words For Worms

      Definitely not an easy read, but worth it. Lots of cringe-worthy moments. And a few “oh no s/he didn’t!” moments. (I’m prone to shouting while reading.)

  3. Sarah @ Sarah Says Read

    Oh man, this book. It was so heart-breaking. It should ABSOLUTELY be allowed and encouraged reading in high school.

  4. Andi (@estellasrevenge)

    Love it! I read it as a teen and didn’t “get” it though. I was all like, “This is a sucky ghost story,” and the point flew right over my head. When I re-read it, though, my socks totally flew off.

    • Words For Worms

      YES! I hated The Scarlet Letter, which I blame in large part on the fact that we had to write a bunch of super obnoxious papers on it. Really though, Toni Morrison breathes new life into a stale curriculum.

  5. Leila @ Readers' Oasis

    Very much agree! You BET an advanced high school English class could read The Bluest Eye. The worst, most soul-crushingly dull thing I had to read as a teen was Billy Budd by Melville. Honestly, Billy Budd makes Moby Dick seem like a rip-roaring page-turner!! It made me HATE classic literature for a few years, and even avoid lit classes in college. 🙁 I had to go through a process of rediscovering the classics many years later on my own.

  6. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Wait, sorry, you read Moby Dick in HIGH SCHOOL? Sheesh, and I complained about having to read it in college.

    I don’t think any books were ruined for me by having to read them for school. I think some books were never a good fit for me, and having to read them for school made me hate them with an intensity they might not otherwise have inspired; but pretty much, I think I liked the required reading books I would have liked anyway, and disliked the ones I would have disliked anyway. Just, more so.

    • Words For Worms

      Yeah we did! Junior year, we read Moby Dick. It was misery, I tell you! I really don’t think Moby Dick ever would have worked for me, so it just made me extra cranky to be forced to finish it. Some of the stuff we read in high school I ended up loving though (Pride and Prejudice, I’m looking at yoooooou!)

  7. Aarti

    I read Morrison’s Song of Solomon on audiobook and I think what i realized was that she has so much symbolism and such a unique way of writing that audiobook may not be the way to go, at least as an introduction. This book – well, it’s absolutely on my list to read!

  8. Akilah

    You know, I read this either late in high school or early in college, and I must have missed every single terrible thing that happened in it b/c all I remember being sad about was that the poor little girl thought having blue eyes would fix her problems (and I totally got what Morrison was saying with that).

    What I’m saying is: maybe I need to reread this one.

Talk to me, Bookworms!

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