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The Bluest Eye
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message 1: by El (last edited Jan 01, 2018 02:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
For our first fiction selection of 2018 (Happy New Year, everyone!), we will read Toni Morrison's 1970 novel, The Bluest Eye.

I read this book in 2007, and it's stuck with me all these years. I was also able to see a stage performance of this locally a couple of years ago, and I will never forget it. It was incredible. Good job, Point Park University!

Has anyone read this before? Toni Morrison is an incredible author and one I hope we've all read at least a few of her books.

What are your thoughts on this book? This is another book (we've read others like this) that has been frequently banned or challenged in schools across the US due to controversial topics.

[Trigger warning: This book involves child molestation and incest, and as a result many comments in this thread may also deal with those topics as points of discussion.]

message 2: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian (setaian) I've started it.
That beginning is quite evocative...but I don't know of what.
I read a couple of chapters and put it down.
I have an ARC to get through so I switched but I'll get back to this one in the next week.
I struggle a little with can feel a little preachy and sometimes it can use the language of exclusion.

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 378 comments Mod
I did read this, maybe just over a year ago and was really moved by it. I've since read other books with similar themes by women of color, so I look forward to revisiting it with a little more awareness and ... idk, experience? under my literary belt.

Very, very strongly I was able to connect with a cultural belief that the bluest eye is the most beautiful - however I connected most with (Pauline?) the child who had the resentment and hate towards the girls with the more desirable qualities. Honestly, her anger made me smile.

I remember the writing and experience as beautiful yet painful. I don't "enjoy" - but am able to appreciate stories that may not end happily, but realistically. I think it is more of a testament to these circles of repetitive behavior we continue in our families. And perhaps how we manage to almost imperceptibly alter these cycles little by little. But, how many generations will it take to substantially change our children's futures? I don't know if it is dreary or hopeful. Well, I suppose it's a lot of one and a little of the other. That's the type of writing that makes it memorable though.

message 4: by El (new) - rated it 4 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
When I read this book, my mom reminded me that apparently when I was younger, like in grade school, I used to come home crying because I had green eyes instead of blue. I don't recall this, and my eyes actually are blue (or go grey or greenish depending on what I'm wearing or the color of the sky or something). Apparently kids would make fun of me for not having "typical" blue eyes.

And I'm a white woman, so what I felt is nowhere close to what Pecola in this story, or other people of color (from whom I have heard their own personal accounts) have felt because their eyes weren't the "right" color, their skin wasn't the "right" color, their hair wasn't the "right" style.

Reading The Bluest Eye was eye-opening for me, to say the least.

message 5: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian (setaian) Have you ever seen the Jane Elliot documentary called Blue Eyed? It’s quite confronting.

I don’t think Australians get the racial issues in America. We certainly have our own problems but the issues in America are so overt. It’s kind of astounding. I mean that whole push back against the Black Lives Matter movement ... I really struggle when folks who seem genuinely nice are so wilfully ignorant.

An Australian Aboriginal was physically restrained using a mask and a restraint chair and there was a Royal Commission and the leader of the government and the minister in charge lost their jobs.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

El wrote: "When I read this book, my mom reminded me that apparently when I was younger, like in grade school, I used to come home crying because I had green eyes instead of blue. I don't recall this, and my ..."

I still have this and most of her books on my TBR list. Ugh...

Your eyes sound like they're the same color as mine. My brother and I both have green/blue colored eyes.

I have a Mexican/German family and all I heard from the Mexican side of my family is how they wanted my eyes. lol It sounds creepy as hell now but at the time I laughed. My aunt would sound obsessed about how she wanted to pluck out/steal my eyes... The German side of my family didn't seem to care. There were blue eyes on that side of the family.

From what I understand green eyes are pretty rare in general. After I found that out I thought I was super cool. hehe

message 7: by CD (new) - added it

CD  | 102 comments I had a high school teacher who had this 'thing' about blue eyes in general. Not against them just some unfounded beliefs from too much time spent in the depths of literature. We read Morrison's book over a holiday and then spent all of maybe an hour on discussion. Disappointing. Not the book, that I found profound.

I've got hazel eyes leaning toward green. With red and gold flecks depending upon the light. The blue v brown eyed thing never obviously came up for me.

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 378 comments Mod
I'm nearly done. Reading this a second time had probably made it more dear to me. Claudia and Frieda as sisters is something so special. Their reasoning to get alcohol to save Frieda from being ruined... it's perfection. so much childhood innocence is portrayed in that one conversation.

I'm at the part now about Cholly's and Pauline's youth and the beginning of their relationship. It's unrecognizable from the relationship Pecola is born into and raised under.

message 9: by El (new) - rated it 4 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
This was Toni Morrison's first novel. How do you all feel about that? I mean, do you think it's a good first novel? Does it read like a first novel? Sometimes I read a debut novel and it feels like it's the first, which I have a hard time explaining, but sometimes people know what I'm talking about.

It's been over ten years since I've read this, but my memory tells me that this didn't read like a first novel - it seemed very polished, very powerful, and very poignant.

Also wonder if this book has caused anyone to consider the pervasiveness of beauty in our culture - a certain look, a certain ideal. The definition of "beauty" changes throughout history, throughout cultures. This book made me think at the time about how we really take these ideas of "beauty" and really absorb them, whether we want to or not.

And, if anyone feels up for it since you've read it more freshly than I have, feel free to share thoughts on the racism in this book. Is it blatant? Is it subtle?

Lastly (for now), any thoughts on the banning of The Bluest Eye?

message 10: by Erin (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin | 5 comments I just finished the daughter-rape scene and am now being subjected to the inner workings of a pedophile who rapes little girls. Can someone please explain how this book is feminist? I have my doubts.

message 11: by Erin (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin | 5 comments I don't buy the "racism is an excuse for misogyny" line and I found the comparison of a child's braids to "lynch rope" extremely heavy handed.

message 12: by Erin (last edited Jan 15, 2018 03:56PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin | 5 comments Finished the books and while I found parts of it well written, I wouldn't call it feminist. Many parts of the book read like poetic rape apologist. Nothing that happened to "Cholly" warranted the way he treated his wife and daughter. This final description of the rape as "love" was especially disturbing to me: "Oh, some of us “loved” her. The Maginot Line. And Cholly loved her. I’m sure he did. He, at any rate, was the one who loved her enough to touch her, envelop her, give something of himself to her. But his touch was fatal, and the something he gave her filled the matrix of her agony with death. " Just. No. Raping and forcibly impregnating your child is not love.

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

El | 756 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Can someone please explain how this book is feminist? I have my doubts."

Hi Erin, I'll admit it's been too long since I've read it to be able to comment thoroughly on that, so I'm hoping someone can jump in with more thoughts.

However, just as a reminder, we do read a wide variety of books and, yes, perhaps something may not be considered "feminist", per se, in the traditional sense (which has often been only looking at gender and empowered women). But looking again at the criteria we continue to use here, it could fit still in terms of what we do read in this group:
1-Written by a feminist and/or a woman
2-Plot looks at how gender, race, class, sexuality, ability/disability, ethnicity, nationality, etc. shape us and our views of the world
3-Spark conversation about social justice and gender equality
4-Have strong female characters

Racism is a feminist issue.

But your question is also one that makes me happy because it opens up a dialogue! (At least, I hope it does...)

Since I can't comment on the book personally at this point, I did at least find this blog post about the feminist criticism of the book which heavily focuses on the society's concept of beauty which tends to be very white-centric, which Morrison challenged with this book.

Anyone else who has read this book more recently want to chime in with your thoughts?

message 14: by Erin (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin | 5 comments I look forward to someone having something insightful to say about this book. Eye colour is not actually what this book is about. Your condescending tone just makes me want to leave this group though. I know what feminism is and Rape apologism isn't feminism by anyone's definition. This book is woman-hating because it forces the reader through graphic depictions of child abuse and rape via the pleasurable sensations of the abuser. Then, rather than having any sort of analysis of patriarchy, it excuses black men and calls their violence "love"!

message 15: by El (new) - rated it 4 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
Hi Erin, I'm sorry if my tone came across as condescending. It certainly was not intended to be, though I am also suffering from a cold, so my brain isn't firing on all cylinders right now. I did not mean to insult your intelligence by implying you did not know what feminism is, but rather sharing for everyone again the criteria we use when choosing books in this group in hopes it might help spark further dialogue as a whole.

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 378 comments Mod
I remember the first time I read this book and having very many of the same feelings as Erin when the story shifted to Cholly as a youth. I remember thinking, "I don't care." I was disgusted, and I didn't care to know about Cholly's hardships in life. However, I think that she wrote the story this way to tie it all together in an overarching idea that violence begets violence.

I don't know what would classify an entire (fiction at least) book as feminist or not since it is such a personal definition. Sure, there are general themes that tie feminism together. I think this story is more about class and racism and particularly the way violence and hatred from society continue to affect family interactions, which in turn continue that cycle with the next generation.

The story begins and ends with commentary on the poor soil and how nothing even had a chance to grow and bloom there. It is definitely not a pretty story, but in my opinion it is still a good one.

Shaneka Knight | 24 comments Interesting read. The whole tone was quite pessimistic but I did feel that was necessary to not rose tint the story. As a black woman, I couldn't help but appreciate the exploration of internalising European beauty standards. Reading Pecola deal with neurosis was one of the strongest points for me, the issue of her sexual abuse constantly arose as though the subconscious was disturbed and struggling to repress the memories.

In regards to this book being classed as feminist, I don't see it. Yes, it may be a personal choice but the book holds tight to this deterministic view of human experience. Toni amazingly examines the experience of poor black youths, in a space ridden with poverty and abuse. But how women can push, make change, or manifest anything, not so much. According to this book (which I very much enjoyed), females are mothers, aunts, prostitutes, children, stay at home mothers, landlords, or house help. :(

Like Anita, I believe that it builds on the analogy of poor soil if the ground was never good in the first place nothing good will grow. This is a very dark metaphor, and whilst it's good to debate on, and ponder. I wouldn't want anyone internalising this narrative.

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