Let me impress you with one of my high school summer reading list selections: The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. This wasn’t actually required for me to read in high school. Who wants to read a book about the real suffering of a little black girl anyway? There aren’t any lessons to be learned and the literary quality is coming from a black woman, so who cares? (Obviously that was sarcasm. I am a black woman and I would really like for you to continue reading my things).
Actually, people have been trying to ban this book from schools and libraries…
Now this post will be more difficult to make funny, just because it’s so heart-breakingly (spell check tells me this isn’t a real adverb, but it’s gon be today) beautiful. This is my second time reading it, first time as a “woke” adult and I ugly cried so many times.
This book was so important to me in my formative years in high school. I couldn’t remember why it moved me so, but reading it again as an adult, I realized I read it during a time before I really needed it.
I’m sure many people see themselves in this book and in Toni Morrison’s work in general (Side note: I listened to the audiobook version of this book, so it was like Auntie Toni was narrating me a bedtime story or telling me the stories of our family ancestors, making it all the better). Reading this made me oddly reminiscent of college when I first discovered that I was black (yep, I was real late to the game).
While I didn’t quite want blue eyes to be beautiful, I definitely rejected notions of what I was force-fed as “blackness”. I could see myself in all these little black girls and women, but particularly in two side characters.
I see myself in the whores; I too find hating men liberating, lol. No, but for real, their own people turned on them because they didn’t meet their standard of respectability, or how women should act. And they didn’t care.
It took me a really long time to get there, and I don’t quite think I’m on their level, but it’s something I strive for every day. I had to figure out (still figuring out) that being a black woman can mean whatever the eff I want it to mean, and it doesn’t have to mean what other people expect it to mean.
Pecola is drawn to them and not repulsed by them, because they know and accept who they are. I strive for that level of magnetism.
I see myself in the Mobile, Aiken (shout out to SC my home-state!) women, specifically Geraldine. She was me before I had my blackness awakening. Growing up, I had a lot of white friends. I wanted to make myself as clean, quiet, and respectable so I could fulfill their Oreo image of me (for those of you that have had friends aware enough not to call you Oreo, it means black on the outside, white on the inside). I was good enough to be milk’s favorite cookie…
I didn’t want to have greasy, black hair; I didn’t want to talk black; I didn’t want to wear black people clothes. I wanted to say the right things, like the right music, have the cultural relevance to connect to white people. And on the flip side, I made myself small and invisible to other black people because I knew that I wouldn’t be accepted by “real” black people.
Which of the characters did you see yourself in most? Let me know in the comments!