Push by Sapphire
Published in 1996 by Alfred A Knopf
My copy: Library
This is the story of Precious Jones, a sixteen-year-old illiterate black girl who has never been out of Harlem. She is pregnant by her own father for the second time, and kicked out of school when that pregnancy becomes obvious. Placed in an alternative teaching programme, she learns to read and write. This is Precious’s diary, in which she honestly records her relationships and life.
This novel is probably best known for being made into the film Precious in 1996. As you can see from the blurb, it is a hard-hitting tale.
The book is written in Precious’s own, unique dialect, with lots of words misspelt, and a healthy peppering of expletives. Her story is bleak – she has had a horrible life with a violent mother and a father who has sexually abused her from a young age. Her first daughter was born with Downs Syndrome and now lives with her grandmother, and now that she is pregnant again at 16, her outlook is more hopeless than ever.
But then Precious gets a break – her first ever it seems – when she is enrolled in a special teaching programme. Slowly, Precious starts to make slow steps towards improving herself and her life.
This is a brutal, unrelenting novel which is not for the faint-hearted. There is nothing subtle about Precious’ narrative – she tells it how it is and it is at times horrific to read what she has been through. The dialect can be difficult to decipher at times, but it is interesting how Precious’ outlook on life changes the longer she is in the special teaching programme, and you feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel – albeit a very tiny speck of light! It’s a very short story and I actually could have done with a lot more of it – however, the style of the book is to be fast and hard-hitting, which it certainly achieves.
Overall, this is a pretty unpleasant book to read and it isn’t one that anyone would enjoy reading. However, it does give you a true insight into how some people live and it does make you feel that there is always a chance for something good to come out of a seemingly hopeless situation.
My rating: 7 out of 10