Today, at 10:00 AM, a Pinellas County school board meeting was held to discuss the recent banning of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Many students, parents, and teachers attended to voice their opinions and concerns on the matter, and to be a part of that group makes me proud.

The careful selection of books in the education system has the ability to make or break one’s understanding of the world. It is literature, after all, that tells the stories which textbooks and math equations cannot. It is not to say that these subjects are unimportant or do not inform our understanding of the world, but it is in English class that I have been exposed to concepts that I had never before considered. In fact, it’s one of the main things I accredit to the International Baccalaureate Program for providing me with: a nuanced, well-rounded, and, at times, jarring perception of life. And that is what is beautiful about literature.

When I first heard about the banning of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, I was in the midst of reading another one of Morrison’s novels, Beloved. I had heard of The Bluest Eye; it was read by many of my friends at Palm Harbor University High School, and from what I heard about Morrison, I was excited to delve into another novel written by a Nobel prize winner. It was the assignments that came along with the reading and the insightful in-class discussion that opened my eyes to a reality very far from my own. Slave narratives that have spanned time and space put on paper for white eyes – those are not the stories I want to read. Rather, I admire Morrison’s way of presenting oral accounts passed from mouth to mouth across generations, the stories that have been hidden for too long. Morrison not only reveals to me those stories, but instills in me the ability to question how many accounts are out there that I have an incorrect perception of.

The banning of The Bluest Eye began with one parent, looking to shape the way her child understands the stories of those she may consider alien. In a way, it is a parental right to dictate what one’s child should and should not read. However, as Regan Miller, a parent against the banning, put it, “You have the right to restrict your child’s ability to read that material…But what my problem is is you are restricting my child’s ability to read that book and understand someone else’s life experience”. The truth is, that not everyone wants a picture of a reality that is crafted on their own confirmation bias. That’s why we go to school after all– to interact with the various elements that comprise everyday life and question how we can improve those elements moving forward.

With knowledge comes power, but at times, a lack of knowledge can bear potentially greater power. As this parent advocates for the removal of a singular novel from circulation, she not only hinders my education, but she devastates all the progress we, as a global community, have made towards equalizing all voices. I want to hear the voices of immigrants like my parents. I want to hear the voices of slaves who had to make life-altering, impossible decisions, like Sethe from Beloved. And, I even want to hear the voices of victims of rape, incest, and brutality, because although it will make me uncomfortable, it will also make me angry, something necessary to refrain from the repetition of a terrifying history.

Today, countless students delivered inspiring, heartfelt speeches to the Pinellas Country school board.
While I wish I could have spoken, I feel that the voice of those who truly care was effectively communicated by the leaders of our generation. Because it is not just about this one book or this one parent, it is about the pattern of censorship, something that will continue to diminish our education system for years to come if we do not take action today. If anything, I hope that the mere idea of banning a novel of immense literary value will only serve to guide more people to its pages, because, any book worth banning is a book worth reading.


“We mistook violence for passion, indolence for leisure, and thought recklessness was freedom.” – Toni Morrison

Happy Reading

Published by Ria Pai

Hi let me introduce myself. I was born and have lived my entire life in a beach area as a child of two amazing parents who immigrated to America from India. I love art, music and writing so I try to combine the three. I enjoy deep conversations on a number of topics from politics, to friendships, to fashion. I’m a natural perfectionist, but sometimes find this to be a bit overwhelming. I love mangos, dark chocolate and tea. I make art whenever I get the chance…painting, songwriting, dancing, and writing are all forms of art to me. Since I live in a warm area, I cannot stand any weather that is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and always find a way to swim in anything from pools to the ocean. I have one dog, a Lhasa Apso who I am envious of because he does nothing but eat, sleep, and lay around all day. I experiment with my style. I am horrible at geography and sitting still, and it’s not uncommon to find me with paint all over my hands. I like to wear bold clothing and I always find a way to wear the same white sneakers with any outfit I can. Hi, my name is Ria, nice to meet you.

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