Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which yesterday made the list of the top 10 most frequently banned and challenged books of 2013, is facing yet another challenge in Durant, Oklahoma.
Parent Michelle Williams heard about the book via social media, where it has been caught up in controversy over the Common Core standards, and investigated whether it was held in the Durant High School library collection. Finding one copy, which Williams herself notes has not been checked out in over seven years, she requested that it be removed. The book is currently off the shelves while the school district considers her challenge.
The somewhat biased local newspaper’s coverage (which mentions “a disturbing revelation of [the book’s] contents”) does not specify exactly how the Durant Independent School District plans to proceed with assessing The Bluest Eye. If administrators follow their own policy, however, they will refer the request to a review committee consisting of a librarian, principal, counselor, teacher, and parent. We hope this committee actually reads and considers the book rather than relying on Williams’ hearsay accusations from social media. She has already told the school board, for instance, that a school in Colorado threatened students with a D grade if they opted out of reading The Bluest Eye for a class. Why this has any bearing on the book’s mere presence in the Durant High School library, we don’t know–but it’s not true. In that case in Adams County, Colorado, Advanced Placement English students who preferred not to read the book were given an alternate assignment.
Williams also cited Toni Morrison as saying “that she wanted the reader to feel like a co-conspirator of the rapist” in The Bluest Eye. This is a claim that has made its way from a post on Politichicks to a plethora of other conservative-leaning blogs; note however that the original post does not provide any link or citation to where Morrison supposedly said it. In any case, anyone who’s taken a high school English class should realize that authors sometimes write from the perspective of unsavory characters in order to explore their motivations and the human condition. In the Durant Democrat’s article, Williams is quoted as saying that she does not support censorship, “but when it comes to our children it’s not censorship. It’s parenting.” Actually, parenting would be talking to her child or children about why she does not want them to read The Bluest Eye. Having the school remove a book so that no students can access it is the very definition of censorship.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.