The Bluest Eye marked the debut of the late American novelist Toni Morrison who was known for capturing the black experience in America, especially that of black women.
By Reya Mehrotra
As the world realises the horrors of racism, here is a list of impactful works from over the years that focus on the struggles faced by the black community. Compiled by Reya Mehrotra
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s 1960 classic novel revolves around a black man who has been wrongly accused of raping a white woman in 1930s’ Alabama. Atticus Flinch attempts to prove the innocence of the man called Tom Robinson. The Pulitzer Prize-winner has become a classic of modern American literature and is studied widely in schools and colleges. The novel also has similarities to Lee’s childhood—she grew up in Monroeville, Alabama, and did not conform to the idea of traditional femininity just like the main character Scout in the novel.
Gone With the Wind
This classic American civil war drama revolves around Scarlett O’Hara and her survival in the South during the war. However, it presents black characters as stereotypical slaves and maids. Amid the Black Lives Matter protests, the movie was removed from a popular channel after it was agreed that it romanticises the horrors of slavery. Now, it is back after two videos were added as disclaimers: one with a panel discussion on the complicated legacy of the movie and the other where African-American host Jacqueline Stewart contextualises the movie.
Not Without Laughter
The novel pictures African-American life in Kansas in the early 20th century, an important time in the history of racial divide in America. It follows the life of young Sandy Rogers and his family in small-town Kansas. His mother is a housekeeper for a wealthy white family and his father is unemployed. It portrays the longings of the working class, especially the African-American people, and the importance of black music. Author Langston Hughes remained an important figure in Harlem Renaissance, capturing the African-American experience in his writings.
They Can’t Kill Us All
Wesley Lowery’s book might have been written in 2016, but there couldn’t be a better time to pick it up. It brings alive the quest for justice for the deaths of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 18-year old unarmed Michael Brown and 25-year-old Freddie Gray who were victims of police violence in America. For the book, Lowery spoke to activists and the families of the victims and examines the history of racially-biased police violence. The commonality in all these killings remains that these young black boys were killed by white police officials.
Half of a Yellow Sun
Half of a Yellow Sun is a 2006 novel by acclaimed African author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a prominent figure in African literature. The half of a yellow sun is the symbol of the republic of Biafra, appearing on both its national flag and military uniforms. The book captures Biafra’s struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria and the violence that followed due to the civil war. The Biafran war, which was fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra from 1967 to 1970, killed more than a million. Ethno-religious riots, control over lucrative oil production and the persecution of the Igbo people in northern Nigeria were some of the main reasons for the war.
The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye marked the debut of the late American novelist Toni Morrison who was known for capturing the black experience in America, especially that of black women. The novel is set in Ohio and narrates the story of an African-American girl called Pecola who, because of her dark skin colour, is regarded as ugly and develops an inferiority complex. As a result, she starts equating blue eyes, a dominant feature among white people, as a sign of beauty, supremacy and longs for them. Her obsession for blue eyes ends with insanity.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The 1969 novel is an autobiography of poet, memoirist and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. It follows the life of Angelou from the age of three to 17 and her struggles with racism. Her family faces extreme racism from their white neighbours. In the book, we get to know that her name is changed to Mary by a racist employer and a white dentist refuses to tend to her rotting tooth. When she is older, she is sent to California to live with her mother to escape the horrors of racism. Here, she becomes the first black female cable car conductor. At 16, she becomes pregnant and the book ends with the delivery of her child. Her book remains the first non-fiction bestseller written by an African-American woman.