This was Morrison's first book and I can't imagine there are many stronger first novels. She tells us in the Forerward that the origin of the story lay in a conversation she had with another student when she was in elementary school. The little girl told her she wanted blue eyes. As Morrison thought about this, she was repelled by the idea. She saw the statement as "racial self-loathing." In America, beauty is measured against the dominant white race. How could a black child, especially a girl, have any self-esteem if they were constantly told they could never be beautiful or worthwhile because of the color of their skin.
Percola Breedlove prays every night for beauty, which she defines as blond hair and blue eyes. Possession of these attributes will help her to fit in with her classmates. This is a novel not easily summed up in a few paragraphs. Percola has even more indignities thrust upon her over the course of this story. The writing in this novel is exquisite, lyrical, enriching. The first few chapters make the book seem more difficult than it is. It settles into a manageable read although a shocking one. Set in Lorain Ohio, it might as well be the Deep South of a hundred years earlier. A truly amazing book.
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