Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 1996
Genres: Fiction, African American, General, Urban, Contemporary Women, Coming of Age, Family Life
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"Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire," directed by Lee Daniels and written by Damien Paul
GRAND JURY PRIZE and AUDIENCE AWARD winner at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival
Relentless, remorseless, and inspirational, this "horrific, hope-filled story" (Newsday) is certain to haunt a generation of readers. Precious Jones, 16 years old and pregnant by her father with her second child, meets a determined and highly radical teacher who takes her on a journey of transformation and redemption.
Push by Sapphire is the story of an impoverished, traumatized, illiterate seventeen year old African-American girl named Precious Jones who overcomes so many obstacles in trying to turn her horrid life around. I mean seriously in Push by Sapphire it’s one bad thing after another, with maybe a handful of good things that happen.
To be quite honest, I’m still on the fence about Push by Sapphire. Now, I know I probably should have enjoyed Push a lot more than I did, but it made me so uncomfortable. I understand that was probably the point so the reader is somewhat shocked out of their assumptions, but I can’t help that I felt a little bit… icky after some parts. Alright, so here’s the thing, you find out on like the first page that Precious is the mother of two children, and you find out she didn’t get a choice in the matter, but then okay Push by Sapphire goes into her desiring sex from her rapist. I’m sorry that’s gross. We all have our lines, and well, that’s my line. Maybe she had Stockholm Syndrome, but again, that’s something I find very hard to read and accept.
However, I did like the dialect in Push by Sapphire, I felt it really reflect someone who isn’t educated and is illiterate. The dialect writing helped the story feel more real. Real-ness, or rather, authenticity in a story is important to me, and certain things occurred in this story that I just couldn’t believe, I mean it felt like I was riding the tragedy train. And here’s the thing, I understand what happens to Precious is the sort of thing which happens probably every single day in America, but it’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around.
That said, Push by Sapphire is a quick, gripping read, and while we are on tragedy train, there is a beacon of hope throughout the book, despite everything, and that beacon is education. Words will set one free and bring you away from suffering. I tend to agree with this, as education is likely to bring you further in life than dropping out.
The writing in Push by Sapphire is provocative and feels true, as it’s told in stream of consciousness.
“Sometimes I wanna tell Ms. Rain shut up with all the IZM stuff. But she my teacher so I don’t tell her to shut up. I don’t know what “realism” mean but I do know what REALITY is and it’s a mutherfucker, lemme tell you.” -pg. 83
Also, there is this quote which I felt to be problematic, but perhaps reflective of unfortunate societal attitudes about skin color and desirability.
“Ms. Rain say write our fantasy of ourselves. How we would be if life was perfect. I tell you one thing right now, I would be light skinned, thereby treated right and loved by boyz. Light even more important than being skinny; you see them light-skinned girls that’s big an’ fat, they got boyfriends.” – pg. 113
“Don’t nobody want me. Don’t nobody need me. I know who I am. I know who they say I am–vampire sucking the system’s blood. Ugly black grease to be wipe away, punish, kilt, changed finded a job for.
I wanna say I am somebody. I wanna say it on subway, TV, movie, LOUD. I see the pink faces in suits look over top of my head. I watch myself disappear in their eyes, their tesses[tests]. I talk loud but still I don’t exist.” -pg. 31
Utterly heartbreaking. Precious Jones is not a character I will forget easily, I don’t regret reading Push, however, it did leave me feeling incredibly uncomfortable. This is neither a good nor bad thing. It is what it is.