The Bluest Eye has been on my to-read list for a long time—years—since I was in college. I was familiar with some of Toni Morrison’s other works, such as Beloved and Sula. “Recitatif” was a truly view-shifting, possibly life-altering, read for me and helped to shape the way that I view not only the blurring racial lines of our political landscape but the unique and poignant genre of Southern Gothic fiction as well.
Morrison’s prose was so unique in The Bluest Eye, and she used such sharp and discerning literary mechanisms—such as referencing Dick & Jane and using the most stunning, accurate vernacular I think I’ve ever encountered in literature—throughout, that I knew I would be doing both myself and readers an injustice by not reviewing this novel. Here, she offered a voice that had to be heard, and, though she is no longer herself satisfied with the execution of The Bluest Eye, it is still a phenomenally insightful and authentic view of the divide between us here in America—she shows us the perspective of the gleaming green grass on one side of the divide and what happens when it withers and dies on the other side.
While I was not the biggest fan of Morrison's style in this novel, I did fully appreciate the dagger-sharp insight that she brought to the color caste system that is so prevalent in African-American culture, even today. Her dialogue rang so true, I could hear it coming directly out of my mother's mouth, my grandmother's mouth, and those of all of the women who've ever filled our kitchens with raucous communal fun and glum communal tragedy alike.
Her use of the Dick & Jane children's books, used for decades to teach children to read (SEEMOTHERMOTHERISVERYNICEMOTHERWILLYOUPLAYWITHJANEMOTHERLAUGHS) created a chilling, ironic and staggering contrast between the lives of the whites and those of the blacks in this novel. Shirley Temple, Mary Jane candies, and Jean Harlow hairstyles - you'll find the delicacy of all of them here, both in these characters' reality and in metaphor. While the truth and injustices here were often sobering to read, they were filled with too much truth to rightfully deny or turn away from.
I could spend hours discussing this novel. I could quote from it all day, but I won't do that, because the entire read was poignant and so crisply aware of the color line - the how and the why - that there is no one point that can overshadow another in the message that these words aimed to send. This novel is older than I am, and yet it still rings with such verity, with such biting truth and reality. With The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison cut open the existence of both internalized and externalized racism in America and laid it bare and exposed at our feet. For that, she deserves nothing but reverence and applause, so she will always have that from me.
Anyone who's ever been in doubt of a color line in Black America should read this book. Anyone who's ever questioned, "But why can't I say those words when you say them all the time? But why do you still believe that racism exists? Why can't you just get over it - the past is the past?" should read this book. In fact, just read this book anyway - how about that? :) *****
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