Book Recommendation: The Bluest Eye

During September, we’re featuring book recommendations of banned or challenged books in honor of Banned Book Week, which takes place Oct. 1-7 this year.

Recommended by Grace Johnson, bibliophile

The Bluest Eye was one of the top banned books in the United States for the last three years: in 2022 it was third, eighth in 2021 and ninth in 2020. It ranked 10th on the most banned books from 2010-2019, 15th from 2000-2009 and 34th from 1990-1999. The classic tale has seen, and continues to see, pushback at many educational institutions.

The story follows Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year-old African American girl who is convinced that she is ugly, and yearns to have lighter skin and blue eyes. The novel expertly navigates the internalization of hate and the standards of a racist society, all while removing agency from the main character by not having them narrate their own story. The story ends in tragedy when Pecola is sexually assaulted, and left pregnant, by her father.

The book has been challenged or banned because it depicts sexual abuse, EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) content, and is considered sexually explicit, making it “innapropriate” for students. In one case in 2018, a parent felt it didn’t align with their values and was not appropriate for their child’s 11th-grade class. The school suggested it would be appropriate for a 12th-grade AP class, but eventually they pulled the book entirely from the curriculum.