Review by Ryder Islington
This story shows more than the pain and sorrow of life for African-Americans in the 1940’s. There is more to it than the backstory of characters who committed unspeakable acts, and the results of those acts on their victims.
Little Pecola, a twelve-year-old Black girl, has lived a sorted life, a life full of pain, abuse, neglect, and loneliness. She is called ugly, bullied and ignored. Ultimately, the story is about how those uneducated and untaught, create excuses for their actions. It is about two little girls, Claudia and Frieda, trying to figure out how to help an innocent, broken child that no one wants. And how to save the life of an unborn baby no one wants.
It is about the pain of being treated as less than. Of not only being the wrong color, but the wrong shade, for Pecola is black. Very black. And those in her neighborhood and her school who have lighter skin treat her just as badly as white people do. Beauty is so highly esteemed, and plain is so deeply abhorred. And in a time when life was full of doubt for everyone, there is no one to lift little Pecola up. No one takes the time to give her as much as a smile, unless they want something from her, want to use her. And her little self is so hungry for approval and love that she will do anything for a crumb of attention.
My heart breaks for her, and for all the little girls in the world, back then, and now, who are told they are fat, or ugly, or stupid, or the wrong color, who are made to feel unlovable because of how they look on the outside. If this story does not stir your emotions, if it does not reach your heart, then you need to go to the hospital and have removed the series of pumps and pulleys that keep you walking on this earth and have them replaced by a heart made of flesh.
And then there is the other story. The story of Toni Morrison, the author of the story. Can you believe that she didn’t feel she accomplished what she wanted in this story? Her prose is beautiful, her turn of phrase heart-wrenching. This story made me cry, not just for a moment, about a little character in a book, but for a long time, for the pain that is put upon those who are called less than. Ms. Morrison touched me in a way no other author has. She brought to life a time and a culture full of anger and pain, and connected it to me, to my life in this time and this culture. Ms. Morrison, I salute you and only hope that someday I will have a hundredth of your skill and your passion.