“In that young and growing Ohio town whose side streets, even, were paved with concrete, which sat on the edge of a calm blue lake, which boasted an affinity with Oberlin, the underground railroad station, just thirteen miles away, this melting pot on the lip of America facing the cold but receptive Canada—What could go wrong?”
Toni Morrison’s first novel The Bluest Eye (1970) is set in her native Lorain and about a young girl named Pecola who is ashamed of her dark skin and desires blue eyes to become beautiful—“It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes…were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different”—and flashbacks to her parents and the racism they experienced upon moving to Lorain. Morrison described “one of the major characteristics of Black literature” as “not just having Black people in it or having it be written by a Black person, but it has to have certain kinds of fundamental characteristics, one of which is the participation of the other, that is, the audience, the reader.”
She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.
Toni Morrison Day is celebrated every February 18th in Ohio.
She died in 2019.
If you enjoyed The Bluest Eye, we suggest these Ohio side trips: