Thursday, June 9, 2011


"Push" by Sapphire tells the story of Claireece Precious Jones, a 16-year old living in Harlem whose life to-date has been a hellish nightmare of no waking. Sexually abused by her father and mother, mistreated, unloved and illiterate, Precious has only known pain or indifference. At the novel's outset Precious has been suspended from school because she's pregnant again. This is her second child, by her father, who has been abusing her since she was a young child. Precious gave birth to her first child, a daughter which she refers to as Lil' Mongo because she's got Down Syndrome, on her apartment's kitchen floor at the age of 12. Despite the heartache, her life takes an unexpected turn for the better when she's sent to Each One Teach One an alternative school where she's placed in a pre-G.E.D. class taught by Ms. Blue Rain, the one person that finally sees her and begins to help her heal, learn, and grow.

Precious narrates her own story through entries made in a journal she has to write for Ms. Rain's class. The journal serves the dual purpose of helping her learn to read and write, as well as a cathartic outlet for the childhood memories which have been festering in her heart and mind. Since the novel is written to read as Precious' journal entries, initial entries are written phonetically or in broken English (at best), for example, she writes "bes four mi tostop breev i sm tim tik" (best for me to stop breathing I sometimes think), with the writing and spelling improving as Precious' language skills improve.

The novel was dark and heartbreaking, yet it finds some redemption in the fact that though it deals with disturbing subjects, such as incest, rape, abuse, etc., at the core its a story about the saving power of love and caring, its about finding that one person in each of our lives that can help us look outside ourselves and grow. For Precious, her salvation comes in the form of her teacher and her son, Abdul, and in the end the girl who saw herself as ugly and worthless, says "Look his nose is so shiny, his eyes shiny. He my shiny brown boy. In his beauty I see my own." The novel has a quote from the Talmud in its opening page which reflects this truth, it reads "Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, "Grow, grow."" A novel not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth reading.

"The Kid" by Sapphire, the story of Precious' son, Abdul Jones, is due to be released next month (July 5, 2011).