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Dr. Tyra Seldon Asks: Why are so many people afraid of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye?

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By: Dr. Tyra Seldon

School districts across the nation are being asked to integrate more complex texts for the 2014  implementation of Common Core State Standards. As a result, some law makers and community stakeholders are concerned about which books are being included in the curriculum.

In  her home state of Ohio, Toni Morrison’s  The Bluest Eye is being singled out as a text that some want to ban. Set in  rural  Ohio in the 1940s, The Bluest Eye is a coming of age novel that explores the lives of three young girls who are being raised against the backdrop of racism and economic instability. The complexity of the novel is derived from Morrison’s writing style which often draws from multiple narrators and flashbacks.

In addition, she is able to peel back the multitude of layers that make up the girls’ worldviews. Two of those layers are the effects of incest and rape on one young girl’s innocence.  Morrison’s work is neither gratuitous nor grotesque in its treatment of these vile topics. Instead, she deals with them in a mature and sophisticated manner; yet, some lawmakers do not want children in Ohio school districts reading this highly acclaimed novel by the Nobel Prize winner.

In fact, Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar wants to remove the novel from the list of complex texts that teachers can use to teach the Common Core State Standards. She is leading the fight based upon her assumption that the book exposes young people to topics that she deems to be unfit.

Conversely, others argue that she is ignoring the more important theme in Morrison’s novel–how the intersections of racism and sexism have destroyed the family unit and created dysfunction and deprivation in some Black households and communities. Defenders of the text are questioning if either she, or other opponents, have even read the book.

I cannot help but to wonder  if some are afraid of the  The Bluest Eye because it accurately reflects an underbelly of American society that some would rather ignore or forget.

For now, The Bluest Eye will continue to be an option for Ohio educators. Although no school can force its students to read it, it would be a shame if they were deprived of an opportunity to do so.  As Mark Twain once wrote, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”


Tyra Seldon, Ph.D. is an educator, educational consultant and freelance writer who is passionate about eradicating educational disparities. She can be contacted at:






  1. darrell johnson

    September 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    If not this book what book? If not now when?

  2. Haile

    September 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    There were laws passed in many states in America forbidding African People to learn to read so all this can be tracted all the way back to European Slavery and the Plantation and Confederate mentality.These Devils will not cease to be Devils, it is their nature.

  3. Lover of Literature

    September 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    If students are forced to read Huck Finn with its use of the N-word then why can’t teachers be trusted to teach this book?

  4. J. David Duckett

    September 15, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    To Lover of literature.
    Why? Because slavery is not over. It just took on another name and another face.

    Michelle Alexander

  5. Stephanie Hopper

    September 16, 2013 at 9:46 am

    OMG! the best book I ever read. My all time favorite! 🙂

  6. Lynn

    September 16, 2013 at 10:16 am

    This weekend, Toni Morrison tweeted: “I’m not entangled in shaping my work according to other people’s views of how I should have done it.” You go Toni !!!!

  7. jim

    September 16, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Why don’t black parents make black children read books period. How many actually had a summer reading list and a follow on discussion with their parents. When are we going to get it through our heads we nhave to do for ourselves and that includes educating ourselves. Hell , tghey even ban James Joyce for crying out loud! Parents stop being a spectator and get invloved in school politics

  8. ana

    September 16, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Our Black Children should read more books that gives us Knowledge of our Rich History, Black Heritage and our Great Accomplishments…Toni Morrison’s Literature is a great start.

  9. Iris Bradley

    September 17, 2013 at 7:19 am

    I love this book.

  10. Iris Bradley

    September 17, 2013 at 7:20 am

    I think ot should be required reading.

  11. rubyfromnj

    September 17, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I agree with Kevin Boseman.

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