A recent profile by Boris Kachka entitled "Who is the Author of Toni Morrison?" New York Magazine provides background on the esteemed novelist, including a tidbit that reveals how black studies programs contributed to the novelist's success during the 1970s.
The Bluest Eye was published in 1970. Decades later, after everything from The Color Purple to the works of Sapphire, the novel’s plot—11-year-old wretch impregnated by father—might seem trite. At the time, though, the tragic story was an important break from the didactic, uplifting black novels that ruled the day. “All of the reviews I had, in the black press and in mainstream media, were silly,” Morrison says now. The former complained about her negative portrayals while the latter dismissed her for trying too hard. But just as The Bluest Eye was on the verge of disappearing, the City University of New York launched a black-studies department and put the novel on its reading list. “Required reading,” Morrison once said about it. “Therein lies the success.”Black Studies Programs were apparently integral to Morrison's early reception. I imagine various other authors and books benefited from the emergence of black studies programs and the decisions among the field's scholars to make certain works required reading.
Related: The Coverage of Toni Morrison & Home