April 19, 2023
April 19, 2023 (New York)—The Authors Guild is concluding its year-long Banned Books Club with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, with discussion led by playwright Lydia Diamond, who adapted the novel for the stage in 2017.
Hosted on the social reading app Fable, the Banned Books Club has showcased contemporary and classic award-winning novels and memoirs currently banned in one or more school districts in the U.S. Each book’s discussion has been led by its author or, if the author is deceased, someone with a special affinity for the work. The club was made possible by a generous grant from Hachette Book Group.
“Over the past year, 6,500 readers from around the country joined the Authors Guild in celebrating and trying to protect these powerful and often profoundly thoughtful works from censorship and small-mindedness,” said Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger. “We would like to thank all the amazing authors, and of course Fable and Hachette, for making the club possible. And while the formal series may be ending, our advocacy efforts will continue as battles over banned books certainly—and sadly—show no signs of stopping.”
The Authors Guild is organizing its members around the country to fight back against school and library book bans and calls for library closures. It has created a Stop Book Bans toolkit for authors which provides templates and details on how to contact local school boards, write to state lawmakers, or submit letters to local newspapers and radio stations. The Guild is an active member of Unite Against Book Bans and for years has participated in the National Coalition Against Censorship’s letters and advocacy when books are banned in schools and libraries. In addition, the Guild files amicus briefs in key court cases to support the freedom of expression and challenge the removal and banning of books.
The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel, and one of her most powerful. Set in Morrison’s childhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, a Black girl who prays for her eyes to turn blue, thinking they might free her from the blackness that society has made her feel is unforgiveable and ugly. Her life does change, but in much different and devastating ways. Since its publication, The Bluest Eye has maintained a regular position on the ALA’s list of most banned books. Reasons cited include allegedly sexually explicit material, graphic descriptions, and language that some readers have found generally disturbing or “lewd.”
“Before her death, Morrison said in interviews that she wrote The Bluest Eye because she wanted to read it, but it didn’t yet exist,” said playwright and club moderator Lydia Diamond. “Others have also obviously wanted and needed to read this book that put a young Black girl and her hopes and hurts so frankly front and center. More than 50 years later, we still inexplicably find ourselves fighting for and defending the right of such stories to exist and to be recognized for their worth, even if their eyes, too, are something other than blue.”
Diamond’s work includes Toni Stone (2023 Goodman Theatre and 2019 premiere at Roundabout Theatre Company), Smart People, Stick Fly (Broadway run at Cort Theatre), Voyeurs de Venus, Harriet Jacobs, and The Bluest Eye. Her work has been performed at Arena Stage, Company One, Congo Square, Huntington Theatre Company and Steppenwolf Theatre. Diamond has been a W. E. B. DuBois Institute Fellow at Harvard, a Sundance Playwright Lab Creative Advisor, a Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellow, a Sally B. Goodman Fellow, and a National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group playwright. She was a Consulting Producer and co-writer for Showtime’s 4th season of The Affair and nominated for a Writers Guild Award for best Drama Episode. She has also written for projects on HBO and Hulu. She sits on the Dramatists Guild Legal Defense Fund board and is on faculty at University of Illinois at Chicago.
With more than 13,000 members, the Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for published writers. It advocates on behalf of working writers to protect free speech, freedom of expression, and authors’ copyrights; fights for fair contracts and authors’ ability to earn a livable wage; and provides a welcoming community for writers and translators of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and journalism. Through its educational and charitable arm, the Authors Guild Foundation, it also offers free programming to teach working writers about the business of writing, as well as organizing events that highlight the importance of a rich, diverse American literary culture and the authors that contribute to it.
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