Push by Sapphire
Digital Audiobook narrated by Sapphire
Published by Vintage on January 21, 2010
Genres: African-American, Contemporary, Cultural, Fiction, Sociology, Young Adult
Length: 176 pages or 2 hours, 51 minutes
Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Book Depository • IndieBound
Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, has up until now been invisible: invisible to the father who rapes her and the mother who batters her and to the authorities who dismiss her as just one more of Harlem's casualties. But when Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, meets a determined and highly radical teacher, we follow her on a journey of education and enlightenment as Precious learns not only how to write about her life, but how to make it her own for the first time.
Item #1: It looks like this has been rebranded as Precious to match the movie title. Lets just keep calling it Push, since that’s what Goodreads is doing.
Item #2: TRIGGER WARNINGS. Trigger warnings, trigger warnings, trigger warnings.
So. Many. Trigger warnings. Trigger warnings for:
- sexual abuse
- domestic abuse
On top of the fact these topics are discussed, the writing is very blunt. Sapphire doesn’t sugar coat any of it, so please take care of yourself first. Scenes are graphic and painful.
Push is an incredibly powerful book. I didn’t love it, because it made me sick. It hurt my very soul. But it is an important book. An honest book. It’s one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot for just ~200 pages. Push is the story of Precious Jones, a girl living in the worst of worlds. Her father raped her repeatedly and she bore two of his children. Her mother molested her. These things have been going on for as long as she can remember. Her mother is violent to her and treats her like a servant to cook and clean. She keeps her daughter in school only so the welfare checks keep coming. … This is just the first five pages.
Precious’s story is heartbreaking. It should make you mad, and it should make you check your privilege. She’s a strong, beautiful character. Precious wants to be better than her roots. She wants to do better by her children than her parents did by her. The author Sapphire told the Evening Standard in 2010 that “Precious is a composite character…created from the real-life stories she encountered while teaching for seven years, from 1987 to 1993, in an adult-literacy programme in Harlem”. It’s easy to forget behind our white picket fences there are people out there who suffer like this. Fiction or not, Push is a force should be reckoned with. And I think that more people need to read this (if you feel like it’s safe for you). As a protagonist, Precious Jones is black, overweight, and honest with herself about her body image and the struggle to accept both her skin color and her size. But not once is she ashamed of it, and I think that’s powerful. She just knows her life would be easier if things were different.
I want to bring up the issue of language in this books – well, it’s not so much an issue as I think it should be addressed. Sapphire has created such a vivid character in Precious Jones that you are brought into her world in all possible ways. Your skin will crawl, your stomach will churn. Precious has a loud voice, and she speaks her own truths. This means, like I stated above, there are scenes that are very graphic. There’s also a lot of swearing, and there are homophobic slurs, the word “retarded” is thrown about (I really hate that… and it’s still in casual use a lot here in the States. Needs to stop), and if I recall, there were a couple antisemitic comments thrown in as well. Racism and sexism are, unsurprisingly, present. Push is written in Precious’s voice, and it’s a real voice. It is, at times, flawed. And that is acknowledged and addressed by the character’s growth and shame. But it certainly isn’t politically correct, and it doesn’t apologize for being this way. I think that’s important to know going in – all this is very intentional and should be viewed as an immersive experience rather than a racist author, okay? There are times where book bloggers need to call out this stuff, and there are times when we need to sit back and understand that this is an object lesson and a person and we are supposed to be offended and uncomfortable.
Throughout the story, you need Precious to succeed. I am rarely so wrapped up in a book that I have a physical need for the character to prevail. Did I mention this book is under 200 pages? That is how powerful the story is. For everything that has happened to her, Precious looks at the world around her and still finds things to love. She looks at some of her peers and thinks they had it worse than her. She strives to improve herself by improving her literacy, and you see her progress through the book. The way she speaks and writes changes. And for all the darkness in the world, you have a little hope in the end, too. Sometimes, the world is a vile place. But if Precious can carry on, we all certainly can.
But it really should make you mad and want to fight for change as well.
If you think that you can make it past the trigger warnings, read this book. I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone younger than high school (and even then, I think it’s situational)… but if you can handle the content, the graphic scenes, the language… this book is so powerful and I think it needs to be read.