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Sunday, June 13, 2010

An African American Family Drama (Fiction)

Excerpt from Amazon review:

"What better way to learn about her than through her own, halting dialect. That is the device deployed in the first novel by poet and singer Sapphire. "Sometimes I wish I was not alive," Precious says. "But I don't know how to die. Ain' no plug to pull out. 'N no matter how bad I feel my heart don't stop beating and my eyes open in the morning." An intense story of adversity and the mechanisms to cope with it."


Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (June 11, 1996)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0679446265
ISBN-13: 978-0679446262

       “Push” is the first novel written by Sapphire in 1996. “Push” is written from the viewpoint of Claireece Precious Jones, an illiterate 16 year old African American girl from Harlem. She tells the painful story of having two children (the first when she was 12), and living with an abusive mother and father. Don’t think that these are Precious’s only stories, however. Sapphire writes a tale of a troubled girl who grows and develops in many different ways throughout the entire novel. If you are racist, and have no plans to change, this novel is NOT for you. If, however, you’d truly like to understand how this girl thinks, lives and breathes, be prepared for some shocking information you may not be ready for. This book is not for the faint of heart, there are plenty of occurrences within this book that will shock many of its readers, so be prepared, but do not let it stop you from seeking out a copy of “Push.”  
       While “Push” is a hopeful story, I feel that Sapphire leaves much to be desired with this novel. I feel that the reader never really understands Precious. I understand that “Push” is meant to be left open-ended, but that can be achieved without leaving out the fundamentals of Precious. When I first bought the book, I did not know much about it, other than it interested me. I actually thought Precious was a story about a girl from Harlem with an abusive mother who wanted to be a singer (I was almost right, but not quite. Precious references many different singers, but never really says what she wants to do with life other than “get a job.”) “Push” is so much more than just a story about a “16 year old girl with an abusive past”, but if this book is a rose, it has yet to bloom. As I neared the end of “Push”, I fully expected to see Precious blossom before my eyes, but it doesn’t quite work out that way. I also felt that as the story progressed, and Precious learned more, I would see a big difference in “her” writing- I did, but in weird ways. It’s somewhat difficult to determine Precious’s progress, as it’s unclear when most of her writing samples were written (particularly at the end of the novel)
       Sapphire has done a very good job with “Push”, she really speaks from not just the viewpoint of Precious Jones, but as Precious Jones. It is easily believable that Precious is a real person, and not just a fictional girl who Sapphire has created. It must be said that Precious is a real person, she lives in plenty of real woman and girls everywhere. A reader would be foolish to think that scenarios like those in “Push” aren’t unlike those that happen every day all over the world. Precious is the struggling African American woman, the single mother, the girl whose childhood was stolen from her, the victim of incest and abuse, the girl who could do amazing things if she was only given a push. “Push” speaks to any person who can understand pain and loss. I’d say that it’s a good thing that my main complaint is that I want to know more. After all, when a bad writer creates a character like Precious, who cares what happens to her?
       Bottom Line: Definitely read this book. At the very least, you will gain insight on what it is like to live in a body that is not yours. I felt from the start to finish of “Push“, “All I want to do, is find this poor girl and help her.” I feel success at her accomplishments, shame when she feels shame, anger when she is angry, and a deep yearning to reach out to her. This book courageously takes on many topics and actions that many would rather ignore (incest, illiteracy, failings within the welfare system, etc). 

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