But why does it always have to be political?

Elizabeth Donald
4 min readMay 5, 2022

It’s something to be halfway through a semester studying the works of Toni Morrison when you read of the boneheaded decision of the Wentzville (Mo.) School District to ban The Bluest Eye from classrooms.

It never ceases to amaze me that people think young readers need to be sheltered from language. You know that they’ve already heard it, right? Hell, I recall as a girl in elementary school, another girl I barely knew asked me if I was a virgin.

“What’s a virgin?” I asked.

She replied, “Have you ever fucked a boy?”

Well, I didn’t know what that meant either, but I hadn’t done anything with any boy except get beat up at the bus stop each morning, so I said no, and she informed me I was a virgin. Thanks?

Thus the first time I recall hearing the alleged F-bomb. That was in 1980-something, and kids haven’t gotten any more pure-minded in the ensuing mumblety years, folks. If Toni Morrison uses words that make the grownups of Wentzville uncomfortable, they might want to consider why that is… and realize that there are probably no words in The Bluest Eye that their children have not heard.

To be honest, I’m not surprised it got their attention, given that there is explicit description of sex, consensual and not, and at least one scene involving incest with a minor child. It’s horrifying. It’s graphic, and it made me cringe. And it should.

I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to content warnings, if only because some of those children might be survivors of sexual assault or abuse and they deserve to be prepared for the content. I know there’s a school of thought that says that content warnings are tantamount to censorship, but I consider them a courtesy to people who may need a moment to prepare themselves for material that may be traumatic. I personally prefer not to see/read explicit descriptions of sexual assault, but I can if I am prepared for it. That’s what a CW does for me.

But we do not ban books. We do not forbid teaching of uncomfortable material. And we all have a strong suspicion that “obscenity” is not the real reason The Bluest Eye makes the good people of Wentzville uncomfortable.

Elizabeth Donald

Journalist for more than 25 years, freelance writer, editor, photographer, and fiction author. Subscribe at patreon.com/edonald or visit donaldmedia.com.