Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banned Book Week: The Bluest Eye

It's hard to believe Toni Morrison's beautiful writing in The Bluest Eye has been banned or challenged, yet this list from the ALA places it at number fifteen. In celebration of Banned Books Week, many bloggers are participating in a Virtual Read-Out by posting videos of themselves reading excerpts from their favorite banned book. I'm not quite brave enough for a vlog, but would still like to share two passages I loved from The Bluest Eye.
"The gray head of Mr. Yacobowski looms up over the counter. He urges his eyes out of his thoughts to encounter her. Blue eyes. Blear-dropped. Slowly, like Indian summer moving imperceptibly toward fall, he looks toward her. Somewhere between retina and object, between vision and view, his eyes draw back, hesitate, and hover. At some point in time and space he senses that he need not waste the effort of a glance. He does not see her, because for him there is nothing to see. How can a fifty-two-year-old white immigrant storekeeper with the taste of potatoes and beer in his mouth, his mind honed on the doe-eyed Virgin Mary, his senses blunted by a permanent awareness of loss, see a little black girl? Nothing in his life even suggested that the feat was possible, not to say desirable or necessary."   p.48 
"We walked quickly at first, and then slower, pausing every now and then to fasten garters, tie shoelaces, scratch, or examine old scars. We were sinking under the wisdom, accuracy, and relevance of Maureen's last words. If she was cute - and if anything could be believed, she was - then we were not. And what did that mean? We were lesser. Nicer, brighter, but still lesser. Dolls we could destroy, but we could not destroy the honey voices of parents and aunts, the obedience in the eyes of our peers, the slippery light in the eyes of our teachers when they encountered the Maureen Peals of the world. What was the secret? What did we lack? Why was it important? And so what? Guileless and without vanity, we were still in love with ourselves then. We felt comfortable in our skins, enjoyed the news that our senses released to us, admired our dirt, cultivated our scars, and could not comprehend this unworthiness. Jealousy we understood and thought natural - a desire to have what somebody else had; but envy was a strange new feeling for us. And all the time we knew that Maureen Peal was not the Enemy and not worthy of such intense hatred. The Thing to fear was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us." p.74


  1. The Bluest Eye is such a moving book. Definitely my favorite of Morrison's I think.

  2. I loved this book so much. Great BBW feature!

  3. This book has so much to say! It would be a travesty if it were removed from the shelves!

  4. Reviewsbylola - This book has left me in awe of Morrison's talent. Not sure what to read next... any suggestions?

    Marie - The Bluest Eye is an amazing book. Don't know why it's taken me so long to discover Morrison.

    Staci - You said it! I can understand why some would want to see it removed from the shelves,but what a tragedy it would be to deprive readers of this novel.

  5. Love those quotes! Thanks so much for featuring this!

  6. I'm sitting here in a completely quiet place reading and rereading those pages. They are so beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes. Toni Morrison has such a gift with words. It's way beyond me how anyone could object to her writing. There must be something in Toni Morrison's writing that frightens these book-banners. I'm so glad you highlighted her for Banned Books Week.

  7. Rhapsodyinbooks - Morrison has a style all her own... I love it!

    Margot - This is some of the most beautiful writing I've read in a long time. I couldn't figure out why this book was ever banned, then last night I got to a scene where the father rapes his 11 year old daughter...

  8. Our college held an event with giveaways on Thursday evening for Banned Book Week, and sadly just a handful for students, staff or faculty showed up.

    The Bluest Eye was my favorite Morrison book (also the first I had read by her).

  9. I hope to read something by Morrison soon -- I've still yet to pick up one of her novels. I've read several people's thoughts on her books during this Banned Books Week and would like to try one myself. Plus, if they've been banned, they must be good, right? All the best books are banned or challenged at some point :-)

  10. It hardly even matters to me what Morrison is writing about - it's all so beautiful!

  11. Diane - So sad the event wasn't better attended :-(

    Erin - This title seems to be a favorite among bloggers. Seems like a good place to start with Morrison.

    Lisa - After reading just one of her books, I think you're right!


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