Sunday, November 22, 2009

Push by Sapphire

I first became aware of this book after hearing all the buzz about the movie that was made from it. The movie stars Mo'Nique and Mariah Carey and I saw a trailer from it that looked very interesting, and it got me interested in reading the book.

The book is a much anticipated first novel told from the point of view of an obese and illiterate 16 year old called Claireece "Precious" Jones. She lives in Harlem and is pregnant by her father (for the second time). She suffers from constant abuse both physical and mental from her mother. Her first child is called "Mongo"--short for Mongoloid--because it has Down's syndrome. This child is being taken care of by Precious's grandmother. When she becomes pregnant for the second time, she is suspended from school, but she does manage to get into an alternative school and it is here that she experiences confidence and hope for the first time, as she learns to read, starts writing in a journal, and even experiences something that has been missing from her life up till this point--love.

The graphic details in the book are very disturbing and the language is violent and vulgar. So this book will undoubtedly not be everybody's cup of tea. But it has compassion and poetic phrasing that makes your heart break for this fictional character, who does represent what some people unfortunately live.

The poem below is by Langston Hughes. Precious copies it into her journal as a tribute to him, and it does reflect her own life, as well as the underlying philosophy of the book:

Mother to Son

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

The author, Sapphire (born Ramona Lofton), is a performance poet. She wrote, performed and eventually published her poetry during the height of the Slam Poetry movement in New York. She took the name Sapphire because of its association at one time in African-American culture with the image of a "belligerent black woman" and because she could picture the name on a book cover more than her birth name.

The book is painful and relentless, but has been called "Dickensian" and inspirational and will surely garner a large following.

1 comment:

Marie said...

I read this like more than 10 years ago when it first came out and thought it was simply devastating- a book that stays with you forever. it's definitely raw and tough and not for every taste, but wow.

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