Welcome to day 3! Today we’ll be looking at one author of color who has many books on the most frequently challenged/banned list. This author is Toni Morrison and her most frequently challenged books are The Bluest Eye, Beloved, and Song of Solomon.
Toni Morrison is an editor, writer, playwright, literary critic, and professor. She is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist with many well-known and best-selling novels. (Three of her best known are the challenged ones mentioned above.) Her novels contain richly detailed and vivid African-American characters with large themes and expressive dialogue. Even though her books are banned, Morrison has been awarded a whole slew of honorary degrees and has amassed nearly every book prize possible.
The Bluest Eye was the first novel written by Morrison in 1970. It has been challenged for being sexually explicit and for containing offensive language. Morrison writes about incest, rape, prostitution, domestic violence, racism, child molestation, abuse, and other sensitive topics.
This book tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, an eleven-year-old black girl living in Ohio after the Great Depression. She is sent to live with the MacTeer family after her father tries to burn their house down. Pecola is obsessed with beautiful white movie stars in movies, particularly Shirley Temple, and believes that if she only had the bluest eyes, she would be considered beautiful.
No matter where she goes or what she does, Pecola constantly believes she is ugly. This perception is only confirmed for her when she goes home and sees the tension-filled relationship between her parents. They constantly abuse each other. Pecola’s mother loves movies and her job working in a white woman’s home. Her father feels stuck in his marriage and lashes out on Pecola and her mother because of it. Throughout the story, Pecola constantly believes if only she had blue eyes, her life would be infinitely better. This belief, and other explosive factors, eventually drives her mad.
Beloved is often banned/challenged for violence and for being sexually explicit. Morrison writes about the issue of slavery and talks about the stories that people choose to forget and the stories they choose to pass on. This book is told through a series of flashbacks and memories and is not narrated chronologically.
In 1873 Ohio, Sethe, a former slave, lives with her eighteen-year-old daughter, Denver. Sethe’s mother-in-law died eight years ago. Sethe also has two sons who ran away right before Baby Suggs’ death. The house they live in is believed to be haunted and some say that this is be the spirit of Sethe’s dead daughter.
Paul D., a former slave that Sethe last saw over twenty years ago, appears on their front stoop and moves in. His arrival spurs the novel to begin its flashbacks and memory-telling. Readers are treated to the memories of Sethe growing up in the South. After she turned 13, Sethe lived with the Garners, who practiced slavery, but were not necessarily violent. After the master dies however, his brother takes over and his sadist tendencies become apparent. Sethe and Paul D. incur massive hardship under their new master, leading them both to try to escape. Sethe eventually does and Paul D. then ends up on her doorstep many years later. After he appears, Sethe’s past actions come back to haunt her and the family goes down a twisty, violent, sadistic road.
Song of Solomon is frequently challenged/banned for racism, offensive language, and for being sexually explicit. These reasons are some of the same for Morrison’s other two books being banned. This book is a multi-generational exploration into racial identity, self-discovery and social classes.
Four generations of a family with the last name of Dead have a powerful history that not everyone knows the truth about. Milkman, aka Macon Dead III, is the protagonist in this story. He is self-centered and uncaring about anyone around him. At the age of 32, he decides he no longer wants to live at home with his stifling parents. Milkman has questions over his parents differing historical memories and his own family history. The characters in this story are struggling to gain independence and prosperity, not just wealth, and their black identities/ancestral ties play a key role in their successes and failures.
If you haven’t read any of Morrison’s work, we recommend you check them out. Stay tuned for more banned book week goodness tomorrow!