November 23, 2014

Book: Push by Sapphire

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:48 am

imagesThis is the book that spawned the movie Precious. It is bleak, powerful, and in some cases also seems a bit repetitive. Overall the book comes out well.


Clarice Precious Jones – wild, violent, unruly, pregnant twice before fifteen – first time at twelve – and is  completely oblivious to any authority, still in elementary school. Her viewpoint of the world is warped and described in an immersive way, including the language used. Interesting. Lives in Harlem, NY. Weighs two hundred pounds. Her baby’s father is her father, who is molesting her for years against her will. Since she is also a little bit dimwitted, she finds it very hard to cope and lashes out in ill-tempered and violent behaviour towards everyone else, barely under control.


Many of her travails are heart wrenching. As an example, she cries because the nurse, feeling sorry that she gave birth to a Mangoloid child, holds her in compassion while she cries and no one – no one – has ever held her before, including her mom.


Mom is a giant, lazy, makes Clarice do all the work and also sexually abuses her! She is enrolled in an alternate school, on the recommendation of her teacher but against the wishes of her mother. Her struggles, her exploitation (sexually and monetarily – her mom gets support money for Clarice and her children from the government but totally spends it on her pleasures) by her mom, sexually and mentally (total abandonment and rape whenever he desires) by dad; her hunger and stealing, struggles to develop an impervious psychological carapace around her to deflect ridicule and criticism from the whole world, permeate the story.


Entering into her mind through the story is interesting and really helps understand the struggles she is going through: helpless, victimized and therefore angry and rebellious.

But it can look overdone sometimes when for the umpteenth time, that too in a small book, the author goes over the same points again and again. It may be intended to re-emphasize the feelings of Clarice aka Precious, but you get the feeling that he or she is reading the same page again.


When it becomes all about the same suffering and an excruciating detail on how Precious learns to spell, the book starts to flag. Interminable conversations in bad spelling with no move to the story at all. At least that is the impression I get. Actually, come to think of it, the movie was a LOT better than this book!


And mixing the story with extreme leftist propaganda – suddenly precious goes on an antiwar rant that has nothing to do with the story – is extremely annoying. Reads like a leftist propaganda book rather than a story. I am myself anti-war in general. It is not the sentiment that I am against but the fact that it is thrust down my throat in a story that does not even call for it.


She discovers she may have AIDS. Her dad died of AIDS. She finds she is HIV positive as well. Just when she was turning around her life with education, here is another setback. Ms Rain, her teacher in an alternative school,  is a godsend. As soon as the story gets moving and starts getting interesting, the preaching starts again. When she is against homosexuals, she discovers that Ms Rain is one and she is confused!


Now she improves her English over the pages as she learns more but degenrates into bad spelling sometimes. (Apparently when she is emotional). But she mispronounces with as wif and teeth as teef, but has no problems spelling quantum leap almost in the midst of these.


I know what the author is trying to do, but it is still jarring to read this.


Even for a ninety page book, she runs out of story for Precious and starts listing the stories of all the other abused women with her in the class she goes to, and the book ends abruptly.


The book is nowhere as good as the movie, and in spite of some quite good moments, has not been well executed.


I will say a 4/10


  • – Krishna

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