Push by Sapphire

Monday, 15 March 2010
I picked up Push by Sapphire at the library yesterday and read it in one evening.  It's just that compelling!  However, the book covers difficult material and contains harsh language and explicit sexual scenes.  I'm not a fan of those elements but they are necessary to show just how hard a life the main character has.  Do you like to read?  Can you stand a book that has hardly any silver linings but makes you think, shudder and vow to treat others better?  Then this is an excellent book.


The main character, Precious is sexually and physically abused by both her mother and her father.  She is poor, obese and uneducated.  She lacks confidence because of her illiteracy and she has two children which are products of rape by her father.

Her story (albeit fiction) teaches the reader about the welfare system and how it fails the nation's youths.  Her high school in Harlem is one that is run by the students.  Teachers cower in fear and pass students through with an A even though they cannot read a word.  Even though Precious is raped by her father, her teachers pass judgement and made comments about her being pregnant again.  They kick her out of school and she has no where to go but back home with an abusive mother.  Luckily one teacher gives extra effort to try to get her into an alternative school.  That sparks a tiny flame that finally gets Precious out of the house and into a safe place of her own with her tiny son.

It is also clear during the course of the book that Precious has no idea what a proper diet should consist of.  She buys potato chips because they are cheap and fill the hunger void.  She gets a bucket of chicken and eats all the pieces because she is pregnant, hungry and can afford it.  Her mother sends her to the store with food stamps which buy more pre-packaged junk food than produce and meat.

Push is a book with a serious message.  We have no idea what goes on behind closed doors.  Rather than passing judgement when we see someone who is uneducated, poor, obese or talks with an accent, what if we offer kindness instead?  Why form an opinion because of someone's gender, race, religion, politics or sexual preference before you get to know them? The main character, Precious is shocked when a nurse touches her forehead and says in a quiet voice, "Things are going to be okay," during her first delivery.  No one has touched her in a compassionate way before.  She replays that kindness in her mind again and again even as her mother tries to kill her by kicking her in the head.

I'm going to strive to be more compassionate and look for ways to show kindness.  Maybe it's just me, but it seems we all rush through our days with our heads down and shoulders forward, charging ahead without noticing others.  Those of us with a family and an education got lucky.  Why not share the love?  I'll take off the rose colored glasses and say it again.  We can be kind to others.

The book is better than the movie but the movie is INCREDIBLE and much more tame than the book.

Here's an excerpt of the poem Sapphire includes at the beginning of the book:

He who feels contempt
For any living thing, hath faculties
Which he has never used; that thought with him
Is in its infancy.  The man, whose eye 
is ever on himself, doth look on one, 
The least of nature's works, one who might move
The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds
Unlawful, ever.  O, be wiser thou!
Instructed that true knowledge leads to love...

-William Wordsworth

What are you reading?


Chris F. said...

I've been reading "War is A Racket" by Smedley Butler.

Chris F. said...

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people -- didn't one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn't much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let's look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find!


Anonymous said...

I have not read the book. And I won't...watched the movie first, and it was depressing enough. But from my understanding, the story line is very similar.

I read an article (Salon, I think?) that was along the lines of "They never addressed her obesity! How could they not address that?!?" I agree that morbid obesity is certainly an issue. But seriously?!? She was being raped by her father, sexually and physcially abused by her mother, a teenage mother to a child with a significant disability and HIV +. Morbid obesity was the least of her problems. It just sounded judgy of the actress to me. Like, why hasn't anyone mentioned how fat she is? No one can watch the film and not be aware of the health issues involved. But good Lord. Her mother threw her baby down a flight of stairs...let's worry about the fried chicken bucket later. What's the line about walking in another man's shoes?


Denae said...

CC - So true. Obesity was the least of the character's problems. She was very brave.

~P~ said...

wow!! This sounds like an interesting read....I will try n lay my hands on it. Oh yes and compassion is nothing but an extension of who/what/how and where you could have been but never were... Keep up the good work!!