Simply put, Toni Morrison is a hero to me. My introduction to her work was The Bluest Eye in 10th grade English class. My high school teacher was very good at assigning literature created by authors who looked like her students, so regardless of mainstream views, The Bluest Eye was always a classic to me. It was the first time I realized words writing could be complex and poetic. That descriptions could be more than a list of surface-level adjectives. That the spacing of the words on a page (and the lack of words on a page) was allowed and could display meaning and set the mood of a book. I decided that I time I had a singular goal – – to write like Toni Morrison.
But of course, that’s a goal that neither I nor no other person would achieve. Toni Morrison is unmatched. In August 2019, the legend became an ancestor. Her work will live forever in my and others who love her work. I’ve already pulled out on old compilation a book of Sula, Tar Baby and Song of Solomon to add to my nightstand of books to choose from while I’m unwinding before bed and trying my best to avoid screens. The Bluest Eye was the first novel that Morrison wrote as a single mother with a full-time job who wrote sentences at a time before dawn.
I was forever moved by Ms. Morrison’s work and will forever be moved.
So what happened?
The Bluest Eye is the story of Pecola Breedlove, a young girl recently placed into nine-year-old Claudia MacTeer’s parent’s care as a temporary foster child. Claudia serves as the main narrator presenting Pecola’s story through her nine-year-old eyes. Pecola comes from a troubled home steered by an alcoholic and physically and sexually abusive father. Pecola is also constantly teased by classmates and called ugly by those in her community. Pecola is obsessed with Shirley Temple and to adoration her beautiful blue eyes gets her and wishes for blue eyes so that she could be beautiful too. As the novel unfolds, we learn more about her poverty-stricken and abusive home life and the lives of Pecola’s parent’s Pauline and Cholly.
This novel is heartbreaking because, at its root, each of these characters is looking for some type of love and acceptance. The topics of abuse, rape, mental illness, internal racism and family (to name a few) make the novel a tragic read. However, it’s well worth it.
You want to challenge yourself to a complex read. The book changes narrators and is not always as straight-forward as some books. Basically, we are expected to keep up. Also, if you are a fan of tragedies, I’d contend that it doesn’t get much more tragic than The Bluest Eye.