About the book: The novel, set in 1941 in the author’s hometown of Lorain, Ohio, is about an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove who longs to be a white child with blonde hair and blue eyes. She is raped and impregnated by her own father.
Excerpt: “I destroyed white baby dolls. But the dismembering of dolls was not the true horror. The truly horrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls. The indifference with which I could have axed them was shaken only by my desire to do so. To discover what eluded me, the secret of the magic they weaved on others. What made people look at them and say, ‘Awwwww,’ but not for me.”
The controversy: The book was challenged in a high school in Livingston County, Mich., because of its strong sexual content. In response to a request from the president of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE), a conservative social activist group, the county’s top law enforcement official reviewed the books to see whether laws against distribution of sexually explicit materials to minors had been broken. “After reading the books in question, it is clear that the explicit passages illustrated a larger literary, artistic or political message and were not included solely to appeal to the prurient interests of minors,” the county prosecutor wrote. “Whether these materials are appropriate for minors is a decision to be made by the school board, but I find that they are not in violation of the criminal laws.”