Push by Sapphire

This book, originally published in 1996, has had a sudden resurgence in popularity due to the movie Precious which is based on the novel. And I only hope that more and more people read it. It’s not an easy book to read. And I don’t think that I can watch the movie after reading the book. I don’t think I can go through the experience again. But I’m glad that I did go through it once. This book is full of pain, but it’s even more full of strength and determination. But the pain is so raw.

Push is the portrayal of a young black girl named Claireece Precious Jones who has lived under circumstances that most of us would consider unimaginable. But they are real, nonetheless to many people all over the world. She lives with her mother, a woman who is mentally unstable and highly abusive under the welfare system in Harlem. Precious is raped repeatedly by her father until she becomes pregnant by him and delivers his baby at the age of 12, giving birth to a child with Down’s Syndrome. Instead of supporting her, her mother calls her a whore and worthless and Precious continues to live a life of abuse and molestation until she becomes pregnant again by her father and then decides to make a change for herself. She enrolls herself in a school for underprivileged people in her town. She cannot read or write and with the help of an amazing teacher, she begins to learn while finding her own self in the process.

Push is never an easy read. Even at the end, it is not a happy book. But, my God what an amazing book it is. It’s filled with a quiet, underlying hope. A brightness that overflows from Precious. A determination to never give up, to never give in to the darkness that constantly surrounds her that would be so easy to just fall into. What I loved more than anything about this book is that paints a picture of trauma so well. It shows what dissociation looks like in the midst of a traumatic event as Precious drifts off into a more pleasant place that she’s created for herself to escape. As she loses time and gets confused and doesn’t realize how she got from one place to another. It helps the reader understand how people can possibly cope with such horrendous things.

Precious herself has a heart of gold and I just wanted to reach through the pages and hug her so many times. She’ll make you laugh out loud at times, but she’ll make you cry too. Much of this book will bring you to tears and that’s something I should warn you about ahead of time. There’s a lot of graphic sex in here and a lot of language, but that’s reality. It’s true to this story. And I hope that doesn’t stop anyone from reading this. Yes, it’s a hard read, but this could just as easily be a work of non-fiction. People actually go through Precious’ story every day and it’s time we became aware of it and talked about these things more.

I’d really like to read more of Sapphire’s work now. She hasn’t published much, but I’d like to read what I can find. She’s a poet and I’d imagine that her poetry is amazing. This book was like a work of poetry and Precious herself becomes a poet throughout the book. There were certain lines that just jumped out at me and just stung me…in a good way. I hope that you can experience that too.

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15 Responses

  1. So…too gritty for me?

  2. Oh. Okay, that’s much worse than I expected. I have a friend who was raped and when she arrived home, her parents called her a slut instead of getting her help. Then her father began abusing her. A little too close to home, I think, even if it wasn’t, as Amanda said, “too gritty”.

    A brief note – I made a faux pas when I told you about that poetry book I’m loving. I got the title wrong. It’s Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins. Love it, love it. I just read a few poems per day. I want to drag out the fun. Also, I just read a marvelous, quirky little book that I loved so much I want everyone to read it: Postcards from a Dead Girl by Kirk Farber. Sorry. Shouldn’t drop so many titles on you, should I? 🙂

  3. Over the past few weeks you kept mentioning this and the movie Precious on e-mails and I wanted to say, “Chris, Chris, I haven’t heard of either! How ignorant am I?”. Well, but now I have 😛 And it sounds awesome. I can’t remember whether or not you’ve read The Color Purple, but if not, do ASAP. I think you’d love it too.

  4. Yes…I must get a copy of this one for myself…TODAY!

  5. Rich asked me last night if I wanted to go out with him for a little while today, out to the bookstore and for coffee. Like I’d say “no”. Anyway, guess what will definitely be coming home with me. Actually, I already knew I was going to get it after your e-mail. But I loved your review so much…I especially loved how you said that it could have been non-fiction. That really is the most heartbreaking thing of all…this “story” is reality for so many people.

  6. Great review – looks like this is a book I’ll be picking up at some point. It sounds so powerful I think I’ll have to prepare myself to read it!

  7. Thanks for the great review of PUSH. I read this book when it came out — seems a long time ago. I still have the original version somewhere. I remember an intense, gritty story. I couldn’t put it down. I would have to be in a certain state of mind to read the book again, but maybe I will. Thanks again.

  8. I saw the movie Precious and immediately afterwards I decided there was no way that I could read the book. The movie wanted me to cry, scream, take a hot shower until the crawling emotions that manifested themselves on my skin went away. Reading, which I feel is already so much more intimate than watching the movie, seems unbearable!

  9. Hey Chris!! I know. It’s been way too long. Sorry for the unexpected departure. But things at home were a bit….difficult. I got laid off from my job. Yeah. Bad timing. So bad. Wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. Even applying for unemployment was a problem, because I was working too many hours at the restaurant. But I just found a new job, so all will be ok soon enough.

    ANYWAY, I just wanted to stop in and say hi. I’m alive. And I’ll be posing again soon.

  10. I want to read this book and your review remind me why. It sounds like such a powerful book but one that will require me to have a strong stomach.

  11. A coworker of mine recommended this book to me this past summer and I got to read it last fall. It made quite an impression on me too, both as a professional who deals with child abuse and neglect issues every day as well as on an individual level. I did watch the movie when it came out in theaters and felt it was very well done.

  12. I saw the movie. It made me cry and cry (not a usual thing for me in the theater- I think the last time I bawled in a movie was when they shot the wolf and horse in Dances with Wolves, and I was a teen!)

    But the book sounds amazing. I don’t know if I could stomach reading it after the emotional punch of that film, but I’m tempted.

  13. Push was amazing. The resilience and hope that Precious had was so inspiring. The movie was very true to the book and just as painful to watch as the book was to read.

  14. Amanda, I don’t know to be honest with you :/ There are quite a few rape scenes in this book…there are quite a few graphic abuse scenes in this book. There’s a lot of language in this book. But I don’t think any of it is innappropriate or gratuitous. And I don’t think any of it hits specifically on your triggers…I’m not being much help, am I? lol.

    Nancy, Yeah, this one might be a little rough in your case 😦 It sounds like it would hit really close to home. I don’t know if you saw my response to your comment in the other post, but I already added thDe Billy Collins book to my wishlist!! It sounds awesome! Can’t wait to check it out!! Ooooh, and I want Postcards from a Deadgirl based just on the title alone :p You’ve become very evil on my wishlist lately :p You know that, don’t you!

    Nymeth, You must read this one Ana!! You’d really like it…well, I hate telling people they’d “like” this book, but I think you’d find it meaningful and a very powerful read. And I haven’t read The Color Purple but I’ve wanted to for years. Precious actually reads The Color Purple in this book and it’s quite beautiful, those parts…She reads it as she learns to read.

    Staci, I hope you got it 😀

    Debi, That’s what I kept thinking throughout this whole book…is that this is real for so many people 😦 And that things are actually worse for many people than what this book portrays…so damn sad. I hope you do get a copy of this one soon! I was bummed you couldn’t find it the other night.

    Tricia, It’s definitely one that’s good to prepare yourself for…I prepped myself for it and knew what I was getting into. Still very powerful.

    Anjali, Oh I was the same way…just couldn’t put it down when I was reading it. Tears flowing but couldn’t tear my eyes away. Such a strong book with such a punch to it.

    Christina, I felt much the same way reading the book. Had a lot of the same emotions. I’ve heard that the movie was very true to the book but that they toned it down some…so I’d imagine you’d need some time before reading the book if you ever do!

    Steph, Oh hey my dear!!!1 I’m so sorry Steph 😦 So so sorry 😦 I’m going to shoot you an email soon, k? Love you!!

    Kathleen, Oh I hope you do read it…I don’t think you need a strong stomach, just a strong will to keep going. And I’m sure you have that. It’s a sad book, but you know what? It’s so full of hope!

    Literary Feline, Same here. I work with kids every day too as a counselor in a psyc hospital and sadly, I see a lot of kids that are close to this. Not quite in Precious’ shoes, but who have gone through a lot of what she has gone through. We have a trauma unit too and those people actually have gone through what Precious went through and I think this book captures their experience so well. It really was well done.

    Jeane, I think you could stomach reading it..I think you would just need some time in between the movie and the book. Sounds like the movie really was quite intense. I think I’m going to try it eventually. *hugs*

    Stephanie, I think I’m going to have to see the movie eventually. Like I was telling Jeane, I think I just need a little time in between the two.

  15. granda catadia de mesmol y radecobro con iuguiria proriamon. tabest a rismo y aupar idormig con atodesva sacho!

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