When you read a book by a Nobel Prize winning author, chances are you're going to find a lot of quotes to pull from it.
I'm embarrassed to say that during all of my time in school - much of it spent reading - I had never read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I purchased it years ago, but it got lost on my bookshelf until my daughter announced she was reading it for her AP Lit class. I was delighted to read along with her.
I kept up with her assigned reading and we even listened to the book on our long drive from Bozeman, MT (where she looked at Montana State University) back to Denver.
It's nearly impossible to choose one quote from this book because it feels like every sentence is its own short story. However, the version that I bought was copyrighted in 1993 and included a foreword written by the author and that included this:
"The death of self-esteem can occur quickly easily in children, before their ego has "legs," so to speak. Couple the vulnerability of youth with indifferent parents, dismissive adults, and a world, which, in its language, laws, and images, re-enforces despair, and the journey to destruction is sealed."
One of the interesting things about the forward is the story of how Toni Morrison came up with the idea for this book in the first place. When she was very young, she had a friend who told her that she wanted blue eyes and Ms. Morrison was so appalled at the idea that it made her mad.
Or course, that child had to have come up with that idea from somewhere and the reinforcement that blue eyes were beautiful, at least to her. But young Toni Morrison couldn't comprehend it. That speaks to the true subjectivity of beauty; how one child could wish so fervently for something that another child thought would look terrible.
The original book was published in 1970 and, again, this foreword was written in 1993. It makes me wonder how children are surviving today with everything that's thrown at them in terms of beauty and how their egos could even have a chance at keeping up. It also makes me think about all the young people in the world (actually, people of all ages) who try to live up to a certain standard of beauty when what they truly wish for and want to be is something entirely different.
What I wish is that everyone had someone in their life - no matter the age - who supported our own individual version of beauty (and I don't just mean the physical). I wish everyone had a champion. I wish everyone skipped that part in life when we felt dismissed or less-than.
It takes a long time to be that person for ourselves (and some people never get there). It takes a long time for us to be able to look at other people and not judge their individual beauty because WE just don't get it.
I certainly can't say that I'm there. But it's something to work on.