Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Sunday Salon Book Review: Precious (Push Movie Tie-In Edition) by Sapphire

Precious (Push Movie Tie-in Edition) (Vintage Contemporaries)
Precious is the movie tie in edition of the book Push by Sapphire. Push is the story of Claireece "Precious" Jones, a sixteen year old girl who is a dark skinned, african american girl in ninth grade in Harlem. She is pregnant with her second child, both pregnancies by her father. She is illiterate, overweight, unloved and she endures unimaginable abuse by her father and mother. 

Precious tells her story in her own unique voice, a stream of consciousness style of writing. It is written in the style of someone who never learned to properly read or write. The writing is crude and raw and you can see it change along with Precious throughout the book. Here is a passage where Precious describes herself:

"I big, I talk, I eats, I cooks, I laugh, watch TV, do what my muver say. But I can see when the picture come back I don’t exist. Don’t nobody want me. Don’t nobody need me. I know who I am. I know who they say I am – vampire sucking the system’s blood. Ugly black grease to be wipe away, punish, kilt, changed, finded a job for."

This is an incredibly difficult book to read due to the graphic nature and horrific abuse that Precious, a young child endured. It is heartbreaking, gritty, dark and stark. It's filled with unimaginable acts of violence and abuse but there is also hope that comes along to change the life of Precious. I suspected that the author, Sapphire, based this book on a true story.  She explains in an interview on NPR:

The author says that she encountered girls like Precious while teaching — overweight girls who didn't fit into the confines of our society's beauty paradigm, girls who were essentially "locked out" of the broader culture.

"I wanted to show that this girl is locked out through literacy. She's locked out by her physical appearance. She's locked out by her class, and she's locked out by her color," says Sapphire. "I encountered this. I had a student who told me that she had had children by her father."

Please keep in mind that this book has explicit language and mature subject matter. It is not an easy book to read and it is not for everyone. It includes foul language, sexual references, sexual abuse and child abuse. It's not a book that I would usually pick up to read as the language and subject is very hard for me to read. I found that this book was hard to read but I felt compelled to read it as it gave me an understanding of what life can be like for young african american women and that my life as a white woman even though it can be filled with stress and strife is much different. It also showed me that simple acts of reaching out to others whose lives are different and challenging can make a big difference.

I haven't yet seen the movie Precious but plan to see it on DVD. I'm on the wait list at the library at number 825 or so and there are over 1,000 requests on the list.


  1. Hi Bonnie...the book and movie seem like there is an important message. I will find the courage to read this book when I get a chance.

  2. The movie is quite powerful. I'd like to give the book a try now.

  3. I haven't read the book or seen the movie. I have to be in the right mood for either one and lately, I haven't been. Such a heavy subject matter.

  4. Brooklyn-I appreciate your comments. After I wrote that, I actually thought that it sounded like this only happens to african american woman and I didn't mean to give that impression. Abuse can happen to any child of any race or background. It happens in rich as well as poor families. I think that the author was sharing one perspective and viewpoint that she focused on. I agree that this is a bleak story but I hope that it can encourage young girls of all races to speak up if this is happening to them and show them that this does not have to happen. There are people out there that can help them and things can change. It also emphasizes that this is not a child's fault and they are not to blame. A child who grows up like this doesn't know any other way of life and accepts that is what is happening to others as well.

    Toni-I think that this book has an important message. It is not for everyone and it is a challenging book to read.

    Bookshelf-I wonder what your thoughts will be when you compare the book and movie.

    Ti-I agree, It is a heavy subject matter and you do have to be in the right mood for the heavier books and movies.

  5. You know what? I have this on my bookshelf and you have convinced me I HAVE to read it when I am done with my next two books!

  6. A friend of mine saw the movie and raved about it so when I saw the book in Target and had some time to kill I picked it up and read the first paragraph or so. But then I found that I couldn't put it down and wound up finishing it the next day.

    I agree that the story is incredibly raw, but I disagree that the rays of hope at the end are minor and "too late". For this girl who knew such despair and self-hatred, to find that there was kindness in the world and people who not only wanted her to succeed but who wanted to HELP her succeed was a complete revelation. She learned a new way to look at the world and found a new strength to push forward.

    That's where the title of the book comes from, in my opinion. Just like she had to struggle and push her children out into the world, she learned that she had to do the same to herself. Through this rebirth she came into a whole new world filled with light and hope but also with the understanding that she would only become what she made of herself.

    She had no desire to move to the suburbs, buy a minivan, and become a soccer mom as is a common stereotypical view of success for a woman in our society. She just wanted to make a home for herself with her children where she could have a job and express herself through her poetry and truly be herself. I have no doubt that because Precious learned to PUSH herself she would achieve her goals, despite the horrors she endured growing up.

    This was a difficult book to read, I agree. But I think it's also a necessary book to read. It sheds light on the situation of abused children but not only that - it also casts a spotlight on the many children living in poverty who don't know how to move on. This book showed how the interest of just one person in such a child can truly help make a world of difference.

  7. I agree with you - this book was difficult to read, but it's an important one to read. You do need to see the movie - it's done very well.

  8. This was one of my favorite books last year. It made such a huge impression on me. I am glad I read it. As you said, it was difficult to read. My heart ached for Precious and all she went through.

    I hope you will like the movie. While the book was better (isn't it almost always?), the movie was very well done and worth seeing.

  9. The book Push jumped off my shelf the other day and reminded me that I needed to read it before I see the movie Precious. I didn't read your thoughts in full because of that. You may have touched on this, but do you know how much different the book Push is in comparison to Precious? Precious is a book and movie, right? I'm confused. Help!

  10. I've got Precious on my Netflix list, but I don't know if I'd like the book. Think I might just try it on screen.


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