The Bluest Eye is a unflinching look at racism, poverty, damaged self-esteem, the internalization of hatred, and the psychology of misplaced rage. It is a tough look at people in tough situations, willing to confront human foibles as well as strengths. The Bluest Eye is widely used as a teaching tool in high schools and colleges, and even has its own Spark Notes (a students' guide to literary works) volume and web page.
The author, Toni Morrison, is an eminent American writer, with an MA in English from Cornell and an honorary doctorate from Oxford University, a winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize for Literature. She is noted for other tremendously successful books, including Song of Solomon and Beloved. The standing of the author alone makes this a significant work. Nonetheless, this book stands on its own two feet as a literary achievement and a profound social commentary.
Once again I have to thank the would-be censors for calling attention to worthy literature. I only read this book because it was challenged, and I have been enriched by that experience.
As with almost any worthwhile literature, this book will make some readers uncomfortable. Included among its many diverse themes are sexualized violence, rape, and incest. These, more than anything else, have caused some parents to object to the use of the book in high school curricula. The Bluest Eye is listed as 34th on the American Library Association's list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books 1990-1999. More recently, it made it onto the top-ten list of challenged books in 2006, was challenged in 2008 at the Burke County, North Carolina, school district, and in 2009 at the Delphi Community high school in Delphi, Indiana. The Delphi case is quite refreshing compared to many others. For one thing, the school board formed a review committee, who read the book in order to make an informed decision instead of relying on mere innuendo. As so often happens when people actually read a challenged book, the committee saw the book's literary value and recommended keeping it in the classroom curricula. The second refreshing thing about the Delphi case is that the school board actually followed the review committee's recommendations and kept the book, unlike so many other cases, in which school boards have made political choices to override the review committees they appointed.
Speaking of challenges by people who haven't read the book they're challenging, disinformation about The Bluest Eye has taken on a life of its own on the internet. It has, for example, become almost automatic now for would-be censors to proclaim that this book exposes young minds to bestiality. There is, of course, no description of any such act in the book. The evolution of this disinformation is quite plain. The book does, exactly once, contain the word bestiality, without any description of what that term means, mentioning it as something a particular character cannot imagine or do. No doubt, someone wishing to disparage the book claimed that it contained bestiality. The first person making that claim surely knew that he was saying it contained the word without any description of the act, and surely knew quite well that others would misinterpret his statement as meaning the book contained such a description.
So typical of book challenges: once the disinformation is established anywhere, it is repeated and legitimated by those who don't read but want to tell those who do read what they can't read.