2016 Banned Books Week and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison


I love Banned Books Week. If anything, it should be more awareness vs. passion for banned books, but maybe it’s the rebel in me that wants to read banned books because some group of people say that we need to protect our children from them.

As an adult and a lover of books, I can read whatever book I want. However, there are dozens of schools and libraries throughout the United States that feel the need to censor some books because of their themes and content. I don’t think there’s anything worse than hiding truth and knowledge from young people. Maybe cookies. If you were hiding cookies from young people, I’m pretty sure they should know about it.

This year’s theme is on diverse books. Funnily enough, I’ve been on a pretty big diverse reading kick lately and found the timing pretty serendipitous. For my book this year, I chose to read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

I’ve only known some vague facts about this book, but I knew I loved Toni Morrison’s writing style. It’s almost like reading a surrealist painting. You can see she’s telling a story, but in the most artistic way possible. Every scene and every character is depicted to show you a more overarching themes and in the case of The Bluest Eye, beauty.

I think Toni Morrison takes the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” quite literally. The story follows a young black girl named Pecola Breedlove and her want to have the bluest of blue eyes. Everywhere she went and everything she saw in terms of beauty was that of a young white woman with blue eyes and blonde hair. She prays every day and wishes to have these blue eyes. However, everyone around her sees her as this ugly little girl with weird features. Even other black people found her to be unattractive.

This theme of fitting in and wanting to be adored is something I felt when I was younger. Being Asian American and growing up in a predominantly white town made it difficult for me to fit in with both Asian and non-Asian groups of friends. You’re interminably this puzzle piece that just doesn’t quite fit into the space. It’s a frustrating feeling and if I had known about a book like The Bluest Eye when I was a kid, then perhaps I would have seen things differently.

Books like this are impressionable because it tells you that you’re not alone. It tells you that there’s no point in trying to fit in because you’re beat yourself crazy trying to do so. Accept yourself for who you are and don’t let people make you think otherwise. Pecola Breedlove didn’t have that kind of support or understood that kind of thinking and I think eventually led to her downfall at the end of the story.

This book was banned and frequently challenged because of its rape and incest scenes. Yeah, I’ll admit that those scenes were a little challenging to read, but I think there was one and it was the catalyst to what happened to Pecola in the end. I think if Pecola had a better family who loved her for who she was rather than looking at her as somewhat flawed, she wouldn’t have ended up trying to model herself off of a depiction of the perfect life.

Aesthetics are difficult for everyone, let alone women. We see something on TV or online and we envy their adoration. We want their fame so that we can feel their love. We have something to be remembered by and it’s always difficult to pull yourself from that thinking and remember that you’re you and you belong in this world as much as that pretty person does.

If you’ve never read this book and have had moments where you wished you had smaller hips or a tiny butt or less weight, then you should read this book. The lesson is that you shouldn’t want something that will make you feel accepted or loved. You should love yourself and when you do that, maybe the marigolds will bloom for you.

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