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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
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it was amazing
bookshelves: african-american

"Being a minority in both caste and class, we moved about anyway on the hem of life, struggling to consolidate our weaknesses and hang on, or to creep singly up into the major folds of the garment. Our peripheral existence, however, was something we had learned to deal with--probably because it was abstract."- Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

I'm rereading Morrison's books in chronological order in 2016 and I created a private group here on Goodreads for a few of us who are interested in doing the same thing. Discussing this book with others has been very interesting because we all have different perspectives and can share them, expanding our own understanding of the book, it's been a great experience.

It's been four years since I first read The Bluest Eye and I was extremely touched and saddened by it the first time around. I count it as one of my favourite Morrison books and I'm glad to say that after a reread it's still very much so. I'm trying hard to find the words to describe how I feel about this book and it's still hard because it's a gut-wrenching book which I love, though "love" sounds like the wrong word for it: how can I love a book that is filled with so much pain, sadness and grief? This book condenses so much tragedy, despair and sadness in a relatively small space. What do you focus on? It can get a bit overwhelming. Morrison's advice seems to be: "There is really nothing more to say--except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how."

Whenever I discuss this book with people I know, Pecola is often the first name that comes up. Pecola, the poor, unloved child who prayed for blue eyes. It was hard not to draw comparisons between her and Celie (The Colour Purple), another abused black girl who was called ugly by all those around her. And I think of all the little black girls I've known who hated being black, who hated their hair, their noses, their eye colour, who prayed for "good hair", lighter skin complexion etc.

Morrison shows the vulnerability of children so well, and the consequences of parents not telling them what they need to know in enough detail, which results in them being forced to draw conclusions on their own. What they aren't told, they glean from observations and discussions with each other. Sometimes the truth isn't known until they are older:

"My mother's anger humiliates me; her words chafe my cheeks, and I am crying. I do not know that she is not angry at me, but at my sickness."

There are so many parts of the book that show children as voiceless, black children in particular. There's the issue of representation and how the white dolls our parents thought we wanted probably did more harm than good. I think this is an important book in revealing the other America.

My book had an afterword by Morrison which I'm so glad I read. I had no idea that this book was inspired by a conversation she'd had with an elementary school friend who prayed for blue eyes. It's conversations like this that never leave you, it seems, but it might take you until you are an adult to understand the true meaning of what those words held and what they say about our society. Like Malcolm X asked, "Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?"

"And twenty years later I was still wondering about how one learns that. Who told her? Who made her feel that it was better to be a freak than what she was? Who had looked at her and found her so wanting, so small a weight on the beauty scale?...I focused, therefore, on how something as grotesque as the demonization of an entire race could take root inside the most delicate member of society: a child; the most vulnerable member: a female."- Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye afterword
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Quotes Rowena Liked

Toni Morrison
“...the change was adjustment without improvement.”
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison
“Misery colored by the greens and blues in my mother's voice took away all the grief out of the words and left me with a conviction that pain was not only endurable, it was sweet.”
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison
“We mistook violence for passion, indolence for leisure, and thought recklessness was freedom.”
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison
“Their conversation is like a gently wicked dance: sound meets sound, curtsies, shimmies, and retires. Another sound enters but is upstaged by still another: the two circle each other and stop. Sometimes their words move in lofty spirals; other times they take strident leaps, and all of it is punctuated with warm-pulsed laughter—like the throb of a heart made of jelly. The edge, the curl, the thrust of their emotions is always clear to Frieda and me. We do not, cannot, know the meanings of all their words, for we are nine and ten years old. So we watch their faces, their hands, their feet, and listen for truth in timbre.”
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye


Reading Progress

May 11, 2012 – Shelved
June 25, 2012 – Shelved as: african-american
July 25, 2012 – Started Reading
July 25, 2012 –
page 53
23.66%
July 25, 2012 –
page 97
43.3%
July 25, 2012 –
page 155
69.2%
July 25, 2012 – Finished Reading
January 7, 2016 –
page 55
24.55% ""From deep inside, her laughter came like the sound of many rivers, freely, deeply, muddily, heading for the room of an open sea.""
January 7, 2016 –
page 95
42.41% ""They had stared at her with great uncomprehending eyes. Eyes that questioned nothing and asked everything. Unblinking and unabashed, they stared up at her. The end of the world lay in their eyes, and the beginning, and all the waste in between.""
January 9, 2016 –
page 132
58.93% ""She was older now, with no time for dreams and movies. It was time to put all of the pieces together, make coherence where before there had been none.""

Comments Showing 1-36 of 36 (36 new)

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Kerry Casey One I will read


Rowena Kerry wrote: "One I will read"

I'm glad:) I need to re-read it. I'll be reading Jazz in a couple of days.


Kerry Casey Jazz is Morrison? I will buy this one I think. I lved beloved so much I just lent it to a stranger saying 'oh my this book wll change ur life' haha- I hope I like this one too


Rowena Yes it is, Kerry. I've heard good things about it and I think it goes into the black music scene also. I'm reading an Alice Walker book at the moment too so I feel I may get a bit overwhelmed by the content!


Kerry Casey wow, 2 great authors! Ohhh I love the black mowtown music, I'm currently in United States and I'm so eager to visit some of the southern areas (louisianna, Mississippi, tenessee etc) I just met a lady who said shed introduce me to a gospel church so I can see how it feels :) let me know how jazz and that go, Im going to get a copy of the bluest eye asap :) and am currently reading Ms Angelou


Rowena Lucky you, Kerry! Enjoy your trip! I will definitely let you know how I find Jazz :)


Adria Cimino Absolutely heart-wrenching... I read the book a few years ago, but as soon as I see or hear of it again, I almost get teary eyed. Morrison is truly a great talent...


Rowena Adria- it really is! Poor little Pecola :( I'm in awe by Morrison and Walker.


Alor Deng Came to leave a review, but you've summed it up perfectly.


Rowena Alor wrote: "Came to leave a review, but you've summed it up perfectly."

Thanks so much! I think when I reread it I may write a more detailed review. One of these days:)


freckledbibliophile One of my absolute favorites. I need to revisit this book. Great review, Rowena.


Rowena Jalawa wrote: "One of my absolute favorites. I need to revisit this book. Great review, Rowena."

Thank you, Jalawa:)


message 13: by Lily (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily Such a great review, Rowena! The origins of the story are particularly interesting. It's amazing what little things can turn into, when given time to germinate.


Rowena Lily wrote: "Such a great review, Rowena! The origins of the story are particularly interesting. It's amazing what little things can turn into, when given time to germinate."

Thanks so much, Lily! I think for myself I've also had incidents that have stuck in my mind after years and years and I always think they did for a reason!


message 15: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen Lovely review, Rowena. Loved that you added in the quote by Morrison, so poignant and sadly, true. I've always liked how Morrison gives her characters dimensions, from the youngest child to the bad guy, as the horrible father here is lent some sympathy. I need to re-read this sometime soon. Thanks for reminding why this is one of my all-time favorite books :)


message 16: by Margaret (new)

Margaret And this work of genius is her first novel. Wow!


Rowena Jen wrote: "Lovely review, Rowena. Loved that you added in the quote by Morrison, so poignant and sadly, true. I've always liked how Morrison gives her characters dimensions, from the youngest child to the bad..."

Thanks, Jen:) You're right, I was surprised by how much I did sympathize with Cholly while being absolutely sickened and angry with him.


Rowena Margaret wrote: "And this work of genius is her first novel. Wow!"

Right? Truly amazing!


Dhanaraj Rajan Just this morning completed reading the novel. I can say it is a powerful novel.


Rowena Dhanaraj wrote: "Just this morning completed reading the novel. I can say it is a powerful novel."

Indeed it is!


message 21: by Raul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Raul Bimenyimana Another great Morrison review!
I agree that Pecola and Celie have so many similarities (being almost universally disliked, the father figures abusing them etc).
I found the divisions within the black community captured by the book quite interesting and sad, I had seen this in her book Song of Solomon too.
And I absolutely loved the afterword, sorry if I got caught up but again, great review.


Rowena Raul wrote: "Another great Morrison review!
I agree that Pecola and Celie have so many similarities (being almost universally disliked, the father figures abusing them etc).
I found the divisions within the bla..."


Thanks, Raul! I'm glad you were able to see some of the points I made; it's really interesting for me to be reading her in chronological order because I'm more aware of the similarities.


Brian Wonderful review, Rowena.


Rowena Brian wrote: "Wonderful review, Rowena."

Thank you, Brian! It's been a while, I hope you've been well:)


message 25: by Kenny (new) - added it

Kenny Such a stunning and powerful review. I'm excited for this to my introduction to Morrison. Thank you Rowena


Rowena Kenny wrote: "Such a stunning and powerful review. I'm excited for this to my introduction to Morrison. Thank you Rowena"

Thank you, Kenny! I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on your first Morrison:)


Bernice Watson Excellent review! I have to reread it again.


Rowena Bernice wrote: "Excellent review! I have to reread it again."

Thanks so much, Bernice! I think it's the kind of book I'd like to reread every couple of years


Elizabeth A Wonderful review.


Rowena Elizabeth wrote: "Wonderful review."

Thank you so much, Elizabeth:)


Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) I have blue-green eyes and I remember praying for them to turn grey.
Great review.


Rowena Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) wrote: "I have blue-green eyes and I remember praying for them to turn grey.
Great review."


Your eye colour sounds beautiful! And thank you:)


Ashley Jacobson A group?????


Rowena Ashley wrote: "A group?????"

Hi Ashley,
I did create a group a year ago because a few of us were hoping to read all Morrison's books in chronological order. The group is still up but I've been too busy to revive it, hoping to do so once I return from Japan!


Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Japan! *whine* *jealous swoon*


Rowena Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) wrote: "Japan! *whine* *jealous swoon*"

Hehe:) I just got back home a few days ago, I wish I was still in Japan!


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