After reading this, I learned that this was Toni Morrison’s first book, and was even more blown away, if that was even possible.
I recall reading Beloved in high school, and I’m aware that Toni Morrison does not shy away from talking about the ugly side of human nature, along with finding the beauty in everyday life. Her use of language is absolutely beautiful. She is able to use both perfect English as well as local vernacular, slang terms, and local pronunciation and turn it into beautiful prose.
This book talks about life in the 1940s for three young black girls and their families, while discussing deep concepts of racism, sexual abuse, standards of beauty in America, community, poverty, love, and anger at the system they grow up in. While there is profanity and sex in the book, it’s straightforward and the reality for many people. The main character in the book, Pecola Breedlove, wishes for blue eyes, as that is the standard she holds for beauty, and thinks that if she has blue eyes, she will be beautiful too.
Another main character, Claudia, discusses her anger at her dolls, who are all caucasian. While I am caucasian, I truly feel for Claudia. I couldn’t imagine how angry I would be if all I had were dolls that looked nothing like me, while simultaneously being surrounded by people who look just like me. It says a lot about society and what can do to the psyche of young people. No wonder the black is beautiful movement came about, and it’s a good thing it did. People of all colors and nationalities can be beautiful, and diversity should be recognized and celebrated. The differences between us are what makes us beautiful, and my heart breaks for all the little girls who grew up not knowing or believing in this. My heart breaks for all the little girls who’ve had their innocence stolen by society or characters like the ones in this book. Like Pecola, who was abused by her father. For the girls who think that only a girl who is light-skinned with light eyes can be beautiful.
This book may be short, but it speaks volumes about the progress our society has made, and how far we still have to go.
Categories: Book Review