February's book in the Reading Dangerously Challenge, was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Saturday morning I finished Anna Karenina - the behemoth - and started The Bluest Eye. I finished it Saturday night. It was such a quick and gripping read.
I'm not sure how I feel about it though. The book is about young Pecola Breedlove, a very poor, young black girl living in Ohio in the '40s. Although she is the central character, you only meet her from everyone else's point of view: her parents, her classmates, her neighbors. Morrison gives each a chapter or so and we are allowed to see their painful lives in intimate detail. And even though Pecola is the connection between all these people, the author purposely keeps her from being the focus of everyone's attention. Because that's who Pecola is. She lives on the fringe. The book is about her and yet it doesn't feel like it. She's the result. Not the intent.
It's dark. Very dark. The ever-present racism and discrimination of that time pulls all the characters into this mire that they can never escape. There is no hope.
And this is where I'm stuck. I don't know how to respond to this book. On the surface, it is a fictional piece about the truth of racism. But what is its purpose? Why tell me this dark story including everything from death, rape and incest (Think "the dad is his grandchild's father" kind of stuff.) when there is nothing I can do about it? Why craft a story that leaves me feeling that I'm impotent to reverse anything, especially considering that this is all taking place sixty years in the past?
Anyway, that's where I am. Morrison is a very talented author and her writing is incredible. The Bluest Eye was superbly written and almost impossible for me to put down (I think I only did twice.), although saying I enjoyed it wouldn't be entirely accurate. I just wish I knew what to do with these thoughts and these feelings she left me with.