Review of Push by Sapphire

Review of Push by SapphirePush by Sapphire
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 1996
Genres: Fiction, African American, General, Urban, Contemporary Women, Coming of Age, Family Life
Pages: 139
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

"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.

For example:

“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

and this

“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.

Other Reviews of Push by Sapphire:

By Book Or By Crook
~Red Lady’s Reading Room~
All About {N}
Take Me Away Reading

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Aww, thanks for linking to my review!

    I know what you mean about this book… it was definitely uncomfortable. Do you plan on seeing the movie? I thought they did a great job of turning into a movie and getting the same elements across.

    I hear stories like hers way too often. There are definitely some very complex dynamics involved in those situations.

  2. I felt the same reading this. It was really difficult for me to read at times because of everything Precious had gone through. Your review describes exactly how I felt about the book.

  3. Sheila (Bookjourney) says

    Fantastic review! I have been curious about this book and I want to read it but I am afraid I too would have moments like you did in the book.

  4. I read a few pages of this book at the store and though I found it hard to follow, I couldn't put it down!!

    Thanks for the review, I think I'll pick up a copy and pick up where I left off!

  5. I have a library copy of Push. It's due soon so I better have a look. Thanks for giving me a good head start with your review! Aloha from Rob

  6. This sounds like a tough read. I do like to be challenged, but I think this is likely to make me uncomfortable in the way it did you.

    Fascinating review, I'll keep this one in mind.

  7. Caroline Starr Rose says

    Thanks for reviewing this. Sounds like a much harder version of TRUE BELIEVER, with education being the beacon of hope.

  8. Christina T says

    Fantastic review. This sounds like a truly unforgettable story but I'm not sure I would be able to read it. I am curious about watching the movie so I may do that and then decide about the book. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts about Push.

  9. I like this review. It's honest without being judgmental. Push's world isn't yours. I wish it wasn't mine but such is what we see in urban high schools today. Not usually quite this intense, but horrendous nonetheless. And, like you've stated definitely not forgettable!

  10. I gave you an award here!

  11. Solid review. Glad you wrote it. I read Push and the young women I worked with really related to it. It's an important book because for many readers, it's one of those times they connect and if a reluctant or non-reader connects with a book, that is saying something.

    The movie was better than I expected. I prefer the book.

  12. I really enjoyed this book, but I did find it very comfortable. I really enjoyed your review.

    Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict

  13. I've been trying to decide if I need to read this before I go see the movie.
    I really like the quotes you chose, and while I'm still not sure if I'd like the book, I'm thinking I might should read it before the movie.


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