One of the most frequently challenged and banned books of the past decade is again under fire, as some parents in Adams County, Colorado, have launched an online petition asking their school district to remove Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and other unidentified books from high school reading lists. In response, current and former students from the district also started their own petition to retain the books and protect the free expression of teachers and students.
The Bluest Eye, which is used in advanced placement English classes in the Adams 12 Five Star School District, deals with difficult issues including rape and incest. Students who prefer not to read it have the option of completing an alternate assignment, but the parents who want it removed from classrooms say that’s not enough: One petition signatory called the book “trash literature,” while another claimed that “[r]eading about this could promote the act instead of preventing it.” (“The act” presumably being rape, which most students have surely heard of sometime before taking AP English.)
One student who actually did choose not to read the book for religious reasons, however, signed the counter-petition to keep it in classrooms, saying:
I did not feel excluded from the lesson in any way. I feel as though the situation was handled with sensitivity and consideration and did not take away from my learning experience.
The book has been challenged or banned numerous times over the years, making it the 15th most challenged book of the 2000s in U.S. schools and libraries. Morrison’s Beloved, also on the list at #26, was challenged earlier this year by a Fairfax County, Virginia, woman whose son had nightmares after reading part of it for AP English. The Adams 12 school board may address the book controversy at its meeting next month, so stay tuned for updates!
Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.