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review 2016-09-05 17:54
I was unsure, petrified...
The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

...and then the last two pages happened. At first I was terribly disappointed—because obviously this unnecessary explanation of the brilliance before had been tacked on specially for thick white people like me—but no. Those last paragraphs were there to deliver the final punch in the last five sentences.


I could say the last two, but the context matters for thick white people like me.

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review 2016-04-20 00:00
The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison Please note that this book deals with rape and incest.

This book has left me thinking over certain themes for days. I think the best thing I can say about any book is that I can't stop thinking about it. "The Bluest Eye" was so hard to read in parts that I honestly was surprised when I got to the ending because even though it was hard to read, I wanted it to keep going and going. I wanted to read my happy ending damn it, and sadly there was no happy ending at all, just reality.

The novel focuses for the most part on two young girls, Claudia MacTeer and Pecola Breedlove. Claudia and Pecola go to school together, but Claudia gets to know Pecola more when Pecola temporarily is housed with the MacTeer family after Pecola's father burns their home down.

Besides the story weaving back and forth between Claudia and Pecola. We also have POVs from Pecola's mother (Pauline), father (Cholly) and even a young boy who ends up harassing Pecola. Claudia is at times portrayed as the narrator of Pecola's story and other times she is narrating what is going on with her and her sister Frieda.

What made this book interesting to me is the differences between Claudia and Pecola. Claudia is growing up starting to despise anything that is different than her and particularly hates the white baby dolls she is given. She wants to take them apart, open them up, and squash them. Claudia hates these things because they are showing her that she is not enough, her blackness, her brown eyes are all wrong/ugly. We don't really get many details about what Claudia looks like, but it seems to me that she is at least more attractive than what Pecola and her family look like.

Pecola who is called ugly even by her own mother longs to become white and have blue eyes. To her, being white with blue eyes would make her beautiful and would make everything in her world right. Pecola's entire history is tragic from beginning to end and all I wanted to do was hug this fictional girl and tell her it's going to be okay. Pauline's character I could sympathize with at times, but she was as part of the problem as was Cholly. Pauline and Pecola actually had a lot in common, both of them dreaming of better things, though in Pauline's case she ends up seeing her job as a maid, babysitter, housekeeper to a rich white family as the best thing in her life.

The character of Cholly was so hard to sympathize with though Morrison shows you the layers to this character as well. You get to see his start in life and see how for him everything turned out wrong. In his case though, it was easier to drink, get in fights, and lash out at others instead of taking a hard look at himself.

Morrison's book really takes a hard look at how not only do the way that whites perceive African Americans has a cause and effect, but the way that other African Americans perceive each other can have a negative cause and effect.

I am fairly light skinned and I got crapped on all of the time as a kid for being "yellow". Girls got crapped on for being dark-skinned though dark-skinned boys did not. Apparently being a neutral brown skinned African American was the best bet for you. I didn't think at the time as a kid how we were segregating ourselves into what we consider most beautiful and least attractive, but as kids we did that. I am wondering now if were doing this based on what the adults around us were doing as well.

Claudia who is a tough little thing already seemed wise to the world. Pecola was fragile and needed defending. I was hoping for a time that Claudia would swoop in and be Pecola's friend, but once again, kids are loathe to go and attract any unwanted negative attention to themselves and once again I applaud Morrison for highlighting that.

I said it one of my updates that Morrison's writing at times reminded me of what I would call the "inner" chapters of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." Morrison's writing took on an almost haunting, singing quality when she would break down the African American community (children, girls, boys, women, men) and use that to introduce a POV that would play into what she was going to be introducing.

This books takes place sometime after the Great Depression in Ohio. Reading about the differences between neighborhoods (black and white) and even between black people themselves made me think back about my hometown. It was set up pretty much the same way. My parents were actually in a fairly affluent racially diverse neighborhood. It wasn't until I was in college that I saw that for the most part that many of our formerly white neighbors had been replaced by other African Americans and even some of the older African Americans I had known had left.

The ending was pretty much a foregone conclusion before you get there. I do like how Claudia wraps up the narration with her acknowledging how she and the community as a whole had failed Pecola.
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text 2015-09-27 23:48
Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2014
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie,Ellen Forney
The Complete Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
And Tango Makes Three - Justin Richardson,Henry Cole,Peter Parnell
The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health - Robie H. Harris,Michael Emberley
Saga, Volume 1 - Brian K. Vaughan,Fiona Staples
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
A Stolen Life - Jaycee Dugard
By Raina Telgemeier Drama - Raina Telgemeier

This is taken from the American Library Association's website devoted to banned books: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks. You can read why this books were challenged if you click on the link. Here are my thoughts/opinions/reactions:


1)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  by Sherman Alexie


         This book is constantly on most challenged lists of any kind. A new reason for its' challenge is for depictions of bullying, which is a hot topic among school administrators. After reading the blurb, I think I will add it to the wish list. Native American voices are sorely needed in American literature and to try and silence those voices because it doesn't fall in line with "cultural sensitivity' (another reason for challenges) of non-Native Americans doesn't make these experiences and voices less valid.


2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi


        I admit to not knowing a whole lot about Iran or Iranians/Iranian-Americans, so this would be a great introduction to that world. I feel like there is a two-pronged agenda for challenging this book: one, it is by an Iranian (a group of people we have been conditioned to hate due to our governments not getting along), and two because it is written by an immigrant woman. This agenda makes me twitchy. Another add to the wish list.


3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell


        My first reaction to this is really? After so many years? I wonder where Heather Has Two Mommies falls in this order (that was the big LGBT+ taboo book when I was in school - you know, back in the medieval age). Going to look for it at my local libraries and read it to the kids. No time like the present to start the rebellion in the next generation.


4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison


       My first reaction to this is, "OMG not Morrison! She is beloved among the literary circles." I guess critical and commercial success does not insulate you from the hammers of banning. I have never read Morrison, but I heard not to start with this book but rather her earlier novels and work your way to this book.


5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris


     Because America was colonized by a bunch of Puritans (a group the Brits couldn't wait to get rid of) and we haven't quite rid ourselves of that sense to this day. That is all I can think that would make a non-fiction health book about puberty challenge material.


6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples


       This book is often challenged due to "anti-family" sensibilities. I can't really think of series that is more "all about the family" than this series, and here is an article that backs that up and proves challengers wrong: http://io9.com/10-reasons-you-should-be-reading-brian-k-vaughan-s-sag-756300575.


7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini


       Much like Persepolis, I think a lot of challenges are based on how Americans see Afghanistan, the Afghani people, and Afghani-Americans through the lens of the media and our government. I am not really familiar with Afghanistan. One of the reasons it is challenged is due to "violence and torture"; uh, hello, Soviet invasion and the Taliban regime weren't all puppies and rainbows people! I am putting this on my TBR wish list, but will be prefacing that with the admission that I will be skipping the child rape scene(s) - I know I won't be able to handle that.


8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky


      My reaction to this challenge is "teenagers in a YA book acting like...teenagers? That is what is dangerous...uh, okay." I might read, even though I don't normally read YA.


9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard


      I am dumbfounded as to why this is on the list. This woman went through a hell I couldn't even imagine and wrote the book to make sure her voice and story was known without the editorial slants by various media. Yes, it would be behoove parents to know and understand their kids' limits on reading this story, but to ban it because it is sexually explicit is stupid - she was raped and bore two daughters, this isn't 50 Shades of Get Your Rocks Off. This story was everywhere, so to try and cover up the victim's story in her own words feels so damn wrong. Another addition to the wish list.


10)  Drama, by Raina Telgemeier


    Because coming to terms with your sexuality should happen only after you get your driver's license? This book has the most shaky of reasons for being challenged. And having a middle school age girl be that self confident and know what she wants out of life (at the present time) and goes out and does it? We are banning that? Another graphic novel to add to the wish list.


Final thoughts:

I would like to state for the record that I am not a government conspiracy theorist (or practitioner for that matter). I just understand that in order to gain support for certain military operations, a good vs. evil narrative is given by the media to spin. Geography and cultural studies really aren't American past times, which aid in spinning a certain narrative (I give the example of Czech Republic vs. Chechnya on Twitter during the Boston bombing).


Also, I find it interesting that graphic novels are such popular materials to challenge. Could it be that the pictures add another dimension that make people uncomfortable with the themes discussed?


Challenging non-fiction, and an autobiography at that, worries me as a historian-ish person. Will more autobiographies and first person accounts of events be challenged in the future? What about history books? I don't like to use the slippery slope argument, but banning non-fiction books because they tell of a time/event/place that is less than sunshine and apple pie to me sets a dangerous tone for future generations learning our country's history.


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review 2015-08-10 08:21
The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

I just can't get behind a story told so haphazardly. There is no linear timeline or plot. The whole thing is just a character study done in countless vignettes from different people's points of view. It was physically painful for me to read as it resulted in a bunch of confusion, dissociation, and headaches.


Oh, it was also physically painful to come across sudden CSA told from the point of view of the abuser. So MASSIVE trigger warning for that.



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text 2015-06-26 14:30
Hate to love it.
The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

I read this book in high school and again 6 years after graduating. It was hard to read at times as the author went into the hidden, and not so hidden, desires and actions of the characters. Providing background history of each character in the story was a great touch. History did not excuse their behaviors, but it did help to explain their way of thinking and why they did the things that they did. 

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