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Monday, February 22, 2010

Push: A Novel by Sapphire

I finished reading Push: A Novel by Sapphire a few days ago. And let me just say, "Wow!" What a book! The first words that pop into my head when I think about the book are: raw, gritty,sad, disturbing, empowering and hopeful. This is truly a book that grabs you by the neck and shakes you awake. It is the story of a young girl who is repeatedly abused by her family, circumstance and life; but it is also the triumph of a young girl who takes these horrible experiences and pushes herself past them and towards the future. What we have is a book that presents us with a realistic portrayal of life that also serves as a way to bring more awareness to social issues: incest, rape, education, illiteracy, AIDS, domestic violence.

Push is the story of Claireece P. Jones (the P is for Precious, which is the name she goes by). Precious is sixteen, illiterate and pregnant (again). She had her first child when she was just 12 years old. The father of both children is none other than Precious' own father, Carl. According to Precious, from the age of seven, Carl has been repeatedly raping and sexually abusing her (though we learn later in the book, via Mary (Precious' mother), that Precious was sexually abused from a much younger age, possibly three). This cycle of abuse that Precious experiences continues at the hands of her mother, Mary, who physically, verbally and sexually abuses her, too. Mary blames her daughter for Carl's actions and chooses to hate her daughter as a result. She uses Precious and her granddaughter as her means of obtaining welfare and food stamps. When Precious gets kicked out of school for being pregnant, Mary immediately demands that she go down to the welfare office and sort out everything (no school for Precious can mean no welfare for Mary). However, Precious decides to continue with her education by attending an alternative school (recommended by her old principal) called Each One Teach One (an adult GED program). It is at the alternative school that Precious blossoms. She befriends her teacher, Blue Rain, and some of the young women in her class. She finds herself learning how to read for the first time and writing in a journal where she can express her emotions and thoughts freely. Precious finds herself with a strong support system of women who truly care about her well being and encourage her to push forward with her education and future. She finally feels as if things are falling into place when she gets a visit from her mother; who basically tells Precious that her Carl has died from AIDS. Saddled with this news, Precious must now find the courage to take an AIDS test and find out how much her future has just changed. Abdul is also tested, since his father was Carl. In the end, Abdul is not HIV positive, but Precious is. Armed with this devastating news, Precious pushes herself towards the unknown, content in the knowledge that she knows she is strong enough to handle anything else life throws her way. The end.

Such a fantastic read for so many reasons; Push is one book that I would highly recommend everyone to read. Sapphire has written a book that reaches out to people and yanks on their heartstrings. She has created a story about a girl who has remained unloved and uncared for. A story that describes in vivid detail the horrid acts of sexual, physical and verbal abuse that this young girl has had to endure since she was a baby. The language is coarse and raw, but it is real and necessary. The writing is great. Employing the literary technique, stream of consciousness, Sapphire provides us readers with an inside look into Precious' mind. We are in her thoughts and are able to witness the ways in which Precious has been used and abused; the ways in which Precious interacts with people and how she views them; the feelings she has towards the people in her life, such as her mother, father, teachers, social worker, son and daughter. We are with Precious when she decides to completely detach herself from her mother and when she attends and Incest Support Group and realizes that she is not alone. We are with Precious through her journey of self discovery and let me just say that it is quite empowering to read about this young girl as she finds her inner strength and pushes herself in so many ways in order to provide for herself and her son. Definitely one of my top reads for this year.

Alright, well I'm on to the next read. Hope everyone is having a wonderful day full of words, words, words. Cheers!

12 comments:

Aths said...

I have this one on my wishlist!! I had to send it back to the library last week, since I was starved for time. But hoping I get to read this one sometime!

brichtabooks said...

I actually read this one for grad school before there was ever talk of a movie being made. It was for a class called Critical Literacy, which was mostly a class about giving a voice to those who often don't have one. This book was quite appropriate for that. At first I found the book hard to handle due to the language and graphic images. However, I when I finished it I found it to be a worthwhile read. It really said a lot about human strength and also about literacy. I'm glad you got a lot out of it too.

Holli said...

Great review! I loved this book so much....

StephanieD said...

Wow! I have to read this - what a heartbreaking story!

Lee Ee Leen said...

I saw the movie, but the book is more affecting.
I did read somewhere that Precious is a composite of real-life girls that the author had met

dolcebellezza said...

Seeing the previews for the film alone was enough to make my stomach knot; it wounds me grievously to see what people suffer (partly why I'm a teacher, to help encourage and strengthen my students), and I admire you for reading this novel and finding the good. I think I'd want to slap somebody. Okay, several somebodies who were the abusers.

bookslanduk said...

A light weighted novel with a kiddish attitude to life. Sounds innocent by name but actually its mature in thoughts by the content. I loved reading it.

Lisa said...

Sounds like a must read!

Andi said...

I read this one for a grad class on adolescent literature a few years ago, and I can still remember how hard it was to read. But highly worth it as you point out here.

Kirsty (Other Stories) said...

This is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time. I read it in one sitting, on a long train journey, which probably wasn't the best idea as at the point of the HIV revelation I blurted out "Oh God no!" and started crying. Not hard or anything, but enough for the person across the carriage to look at me a bit oddly.

I want to see the film too, and I have my fingers crossed for some Oscars tonight!

maphead said...

Glad you liked this book. I read it years ago after I heard the author interviewed by Terry Gross on the NPR radio program Fresh Air. This book blew me away !
If you liked Push, you might also like A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines.

Nymeth said...

This sounds like such an amazing and powerful book. Thanks for the fantastic review - I'd seen the title around, but it hadn't yet sunk in that I HAD to read it.