Herstory – “The Bluest Eye” Turns 42
It’s hard to believe it’s been just over 42 years since Toni Morrison wrote “The Bluest Eye.” If the book were a woman she would just be beginning to come into her prime, and with renewed attention on the novel since it made the Oprah book club list in 2000, and then in 2005 was adapted for the stage, perhaps “she” is. When first released in 1970 the book was considered controversial and many attempts were made to ban “The Bluest Eye” from the shelves of libraries and schools because it dealt with the subjects of racism, incest and child molestation so honestly. Now that Toni Morrison is so widely viewed as one of the greatest American authors, it’s easy to forget that “The Bluest Eye” was considered very experimental when it was first released. The image to the left is actually the original cover of the book which was simply an image of the first page of text! Since that time it has become required high school reading at many schools across the country.
Toni Morrison began writing the book when she was teaching at Howard University and raising two sons as a single mother. She wrote “The Bluest Eye” because she wanted to make sure that in the wake of all the racially uplifting work being written by her colleagues, that nobody ever forgot what if felt like to believe you were ugly because of the color of your skin. She was afraid that history would white wash how painful it was for the children who grew up without anyone telling them they were as beautiful as they were.
The title of the book comes from its central character Pecola’s desperate wish that she had blue eyes. Pecola is a young black girl growing up in the Great Depression in Ohio. She has suffered through abuse and poverty and is now living with a foster family. Claudia Macteer, one of the daughters of the foster family Pecola stays with, is the narrator of the story. Unlike Pecola, Claudia rejects the white racial standard in her community, perhaps because she grows up in a more stable home. Toni Morrison wanted the story to include the perspective of girls who were more like she was as a child, girls who possessed a greater sense of self worth, which is why Claudia and her sister play such pivotal roles in the storytelling.
In 2005 Steppenwolf Theatre commissioned Lydia Diamond to adapt the novel into a full length play for the stage. In 2006 it premiered off-Broadway in New York and the adaptation is now being translated into French. MOXIE Theatre and Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company’s co-production begins Feb 2, 2013 at MOXIE Theatre and plays through Mar 3, 2013. For more information and tickets visit www.moolelo.net or www.moxietheatre.com or call 619-342-7395.
“A must-see production … an altogether superb (and harrowing) world premiere stage adaptation.” —Hedy Weiss,Chicago Sun-Times
“Diamond’s sharp, wrenching, deeply humane adaptation … helps us discover how an innocent like Pecola can be undone so thoroughly by a racist world that, if it sees her at all, does so only long enough to kick the pins out from under her.” —Chicago Reader
“A spare and haunting play … The playwright displays a delicate touch that seems right for the theme spiraling through the piece: that of the invidious influence of a white-majority nation not yet mature enough to validate beauty in all its forms.” —Washington Post