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Book 3- Push by Sapphire

I picked up Push by the novelist Sapphire after, admittedly, seeing the movie that was based upon the novel. I usually go the opposite way, but the movie was so good that I opted to read the book afterwards.

The novel takes place in 1987 in New York City - mostly in Harlem - and is told from the viewpoint of Clareece "Precious" Jones, who is 16. We find out very soon into the novel that she is obese, illiterate (she's in middle school still) and pregnant with her second child (the product of her rape at the hands of her father - her first, also the product of rape at the hands of the same man, was born when Precious was 12 and has down syndrome). Precious lives with her mother, who supports Precious with food stamps and welfare. Precious' first child lives with her grandmother. As the novel opens, Precious is sitting in math class and is called to the guidance counselor's office because they have learned that she is pregnant. The school has opted to send her to an alternative school, which infuriates Precious. However, the pre-GED class taught by Ms. Blue Rain and featuring other girls from troubled backgrounds has a tremendous impact on Precious and leads to her confidence growing.

Sapphire uses BVE (aka Ebonics) in telling the story of Precious because we are, after all, hearing the story from Precious herself in the first person. While BVE is used, it is not being used to foster contempt or disdain for Precious or the other subjects of the novel; quite the opposite in fact. It's almost as if we are reading poetry. This is a difficult novel to read because everything that happens to Precious and the way that she experiences things are starkly colored by the abuse that she has experienced at the hands of her father and mother. She can't pay attention in class because she's daydreaming (coping mechanism). She curses (coping mechanism). But it brings it to the forefront of the consciousness and reveals the struggles that people like Precious must struggle with and overcome. It is a wondrous novel that is every bit as good as the movie.


  1. I didn't see the movie, mostly because I read the book and was so disturbed by it, I was afraid the movie might give me nightmares. You're right, though, an exceedingly good book, but extremely haunting.


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