Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Book Week Review Repost of The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison

You can cage the singer but not the song.  ~Harry Belafonte,

(Shame shame shame
Shame on you, you should be ashamed of yourself aren’t you ashamed I hope you’re ashamed hang your head in shame you are a worm and no way worthy you should be shamefaced before yourself your irredeemable self your unacceptable self your fallen born in sin self)

Did I get your attention? Did I open a can of worms? Did the above litany spark a conflagration of feelings you thought had long been put to rest? Did it, if just for an instant, make you feel like the small, helpless, needy child you once were when those shame messages were your daily fare? If so then maybe I’ve given you a taste of my experience of reading The Bluest Eye....
it was the experience of this blue eyed white woman reading Toni Morrison’s story of a small black girl who wished herself blue eyed to identify so completely with that child’s soul that her own soul was able to speak her pain--an infinite pain rooted in shame and nurtured by blame.

Some readers may take the story of a black child desiring a mark of beauty genetically unique to Caucasians at face value and see the indictment of racial prejudice as the theme. But that would not explain the power of this story to move so deeply. Only the universal theme of the shamed self can carry this story into the hearts of readers regardless of age, sex, race, status….

It is easy, even required by this story to notice the pain of young Pecola Breedlove, to empathize with her, to yearn to comfort her, to mourn her dissolution--the dissolving of her soul by the acid of rejection. But to notice and feel the pain of her tormentors and extend the same compassion to them--that is another story. Yet it is the Story for me. It is the whole point. And to get that point provides the only hope for healing the pain and breaking the endless cycle. For shame breeds shame ad infinitum. And it is my experience that most if not all the pain we inflict on self and others is rooted in this swamp of shame which drains the streams of our parent’s unshed tears. Tears pent up for seven times seventy generations.  Read more...

[For these BBW review reposts this week I'm posting only excerpts with a 'read more' link to the original post.  This partly to keep any possible discussion in one place but partly because my reviews tend to ramble long, go on tangents and focus more on my relationship to the book than the book itself.]

Part of the motivation behind many of the book challenges in school districts is the parent's understandable desire to protect their child from exposure to the trauma of certain of life's realities.  But that sentiment can go too far if the desire to protect ones own child extends to assuming the duty of 'protecting' all children.  

Not every child is at the same stage of readiness to encounter these stories of human brutality.  But parents should also be aware that encountering it is inevitable and stories have long been our psyche's way of preparing for an unknown future and making sense of past and current experience.  

It is, in the long run, better for anyone, child or adult, to encounter a trauma in a story first and under the supervision of adults capable of guiding their contemplation and among peers who provide feedback and friction, the child or young adult, can grow in moral and ethical stature, learning empathy for self and others that inoculates them from the danger of becoming either one of the brutal ones or one of their victims.

It is in this empathy, generated in the imagination by story, that courage is rooted.  For a heart deep comprehension of the equivalency of ones pain with the pain of another can motivate the choice to stand firm against the brutality both physically and emotionally, both on one's own behalf and that of the other.

A trauma encountered in reality after one has encountered its shadow in a story will be much less likely to throw ones psyche into a life shattering tailspin than one encountered by the sheltered and naive who have no defenses.
The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.  ~Henry Steele Commager

Here are a few bookish events going on for BBW:

Hosted by Bookjourney

Get on the BANNED WAGON!

Giveaways, a scavenger hunt and links to participating blog's BBW reviews are some of what's happening at Sheila's BookJourney this week.  Along with her own reviews of banned or challenged books and of course her daily Morning Meanerings post.

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop

Banned Books Week Hop

Giveaways galore and lots of participating blog's to visit and comment on.

Banned Book Week Virtual Read Out

Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out

The annual BBW readout traditionally conducted in public at bookstores and libraries where individuals read aloud form a banned book has now gone digital. Now you can video record yourself reading a banned book and upload to a YouTube channel

0 tell me a story:

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