Tampa Bay Times columnist Stephanie Hayes wrote a terrific column about Florida’s thought police banning Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” Here’s a link, but it’s probably behind a paywall. Excerpt below:
“The Bluest Eye,” published in 1970, is the latest casualty in a wave of American anti-intellectualism hitting particularly hard in Florida. Supporters of such measures would call it a win against wokeness, increasingly Batman villain code for anything that attempts to recognize the experience of people who aren’t straight and white.
On Tuesday — in the middle of Florida’s Literacy Week, no less — district officials announced they were “erring on the side of caution” due to the novel’s sexual content and dark themes. This is because one parent at Palm Harbor University High complained. For the record, it’s not like any minors were Clockwork Oranged into reading it. Parents of students in that advanced literature class were informed about the content and offered an alternate book.
But this “removal” isn’t about one novel, is it? This is about sowing mistrust in educators, destabilizing the public school system and pushing parents toward privatization. In perhaps the greatest irony, it’s about erasing uncomfortable truths in favor of a sanguine and simplified view of reality.
Yep. As I’ve shared here perhaps too often, I feel sick and disgusted and beaten-down by what’s happening around me in a state that I love despite its many flaws, and there’s a danger in that. Hayes recognizes the hazard, noting that the “challenge now is to avoid shutting down, numbing out and looking away.”
Her solution? She’s buying copies of “The Bluest Eye” and leaving them in “Little Free Library” book boxes in Pinellas County, where the school district just banned the book. Hayes, who feels a personal connection to Morrison because they grew up in the same Ohio town, looks to the Nobel Prize winner for inspiration and gives Morrison the last word in this quote from “The Bluest Eye:”
“Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging.”
Better anger than despair. Better action than resignation. I’m not sure my little town has anything as civilized as free book boxes, but maybe it’s time to start one? Advice welcome!*
*I live so far in the boonies that a free library on my property would be pointless — many days the US mail truck is the only vehicle that passes our gate. But maybe I can liaise with some local Democrats who live in town and who might be willing to host the book box in their yard? Even though it might attract unwelcome attention? I don’t know how this works, but I do recall reading about others here with little libraries, so please share strategies and tactics if you’re so inclined!