Friday, 16 December 2016

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

“Lonely was much better than alone.”

Note: I found this review in my drafts that I wrote back in 2012. It is terrible and goes way off tangent, which might explain why I decided not to post it. Oh well, feel free to poke fun at my mediocrity. I do plan on re-reading this novel at some point and can hopefully offer an insightful review when it is more fresh in my mind.

I had to read Beloved for an introductory English course during my first year of university but it didn't register with me at all. I have no discerning memory of the novel but do recall the broken narrative causing me problems, ultimately leading me to dismiss it as worthless drivel. Suffice it to say, my ignorance concerning literature was reprehensible back then. Something tells me that I would be able to appreciate Beloved a lot more if I were to pick it again for a second time. Putting aside my earlier preconceptions, I decided give Toni Morrison another chance with The Bluest Eye and much to my surprise, it was fantastic. Personally, this  is one of the best debuts of any author that I have come across in a long time--a stylistic tour-de-force, thought-provoking and an emotional powerhouse that is downright harrowing. There are no sunshine and rainbows in this novel, just sadness and anger. My first reaction after finishing it was to curl up into a ball and cry myself to sleep. I don't mind reading depressing or bleak stories but this one really did a number on me.

It has become a recurring pattern that many African-American writers are concerned with the issues of race -- no doubt, a very complex subject that includes anything from the exploration of black identity, discrimination, cultural imperialism, gender, the list goes on. Toni Morrison is no exception here but as far as I am concerned, she is far ahead of so many authors who explore what it means to be black in America and the challenges faced when living within a dominant white society through her inimitable, intelligent, unique and profound way of writing. She didn't win the Nobel Prize in literature for nothing.

On a side note, I remember watching an interview with Morrison on the Colbert Report in which she stated that she didn't want to be labeled as an African-American writer but simply as an American writer. This statement generated some interesting discussion on issues of race: Why is it that an American white author (or whatever culture for that matter, just using the prototypical example here) is never referred to as a "White American-Writer" whereas a black author is almost always pigeon-holed into the category of an "African-American Writer?" Racial discrimination is so ingrained in our society that we often don't pay much attention to it and just accept it as the norm. Although we have come a long way since the civil rights movement, racism (especially towards blacks) is alive and well. Just take a look at recent events involving racial profiling and police brutality that have left many innocent black men dead. Racism will never go away as long as there human beings walking the Earth. That is why it is important to celebrate authors like Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Austin Clarke, Alice Walker, Ernest J. Gaines,  George Elliot Clarke and of course, Toni Morrison herself--writers who aren't afraid to tackle the controversial issue of race relations -- creating social awareness, challenging white hegemony, opposing black oppression, attempting to find a way to reduce the level of social stratification, striving towards establishing a more egalitarian society by not using violence in retaliation but using the power of literature to spark discussion and even perhaps influence social change by transmitting their ideas into the public stratosphere. 

Here I am rambling on and still haven't said anything about the novel itself. Any attempt at  writing a proper review at this particular juncture will not do this novel justice. All I can really say is that this is a novel by Toni Morrison, so you can't go wrong. Just make sure you keep some tissues handy. 

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