Friday, October 09, 2009


Push is a novel I heard about some time ago and tried to sell my book club on. Most people were largely turned off by the description of the main character: 16, obese, illiterate, pregnant with the child of her father and sexual abused by her mother. I can respect that.

The funny thing is, I just read it a few days ago, and I read the whole damn book almost in one sitting and in less than 24 hours, and even though all those things (and more, I hate to tell you) are true about the main character, Precious (there's a movie by that name coming out soon), it was somehow uplifting and invigorating.

The author's (Sapphire) voice, and the voice she gives Precious is so strong and purposeful. Precious has slipped through the school system until grade 9 but is completely unable to read - when she finally finds a program that invests in her, her pleasure in reading, and the power she finds in reading and writing is awe-inspiring and thrilling. Sapphire writes the book largely from Precious's point of view, complete with colloquialisms and misspellings, and as Precious learns, the language becomes more and more refined. It reminded me, in a way, of the text of Flowers for Algernon, a manipulative story, but with a hell of a trajectory.

Precious is truly an ignorant person with some misplaced allegiances and horrifying impressions of what it is to be good, or lucky. For example, she categorizes everyone she meets by the shade of their skin. But through language and literature, she finds new heroes and even finds empowerment in her own language - what "push", as a verb, becomes is the necessity to find the power within herself to to break out of the horrible situation she lives in, and create a new world for herself and her children.

She say, "Write." I tell her, "I am tired. Fuck you!" I scream, "You don't know nuffin' what I been through!" I scream at Ms Rain. I never do that before. Class look shock. I feel embarrass, stupid, sit down, I'm made a fool of myself on top of everything else. "Open your notebook Precious." "I'm tired," I says. She says, "I know you are but you can't stop now Precious, you gotta push." And I do.

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