Life is hard. We lose our jobs, get parking tickets, get divorced, the list goes on. We all have moments when it feels like the walls are crashing in. But few of us go home and are beaten emotionally and physically. This is the nightmarish world author Sapphire created in the novel Push. Although just under 200 pages, it was the hardest book I’ve ever read.
We meet 16 year old Claireece “Precious” Jones in Harlem in 1987. She’s about to give birth to her second baby, the result of repeated brutal rapes by her own father. Her mother is aware of the abuse, but blames her own daughter for luring her husband away. She beats Precious constantly, with anything she can get her hands on. She’s not capable of loving her child, but she uses Precious’ babies for the welfare check.
Sixteen years old. 350 pounds. First grade reading level. To most people, a girl like this seems to have no ambition and hope for the future. To some people, she’s invisible. But Precious comes to life in the pages of Push, as the story is written from her point of view, at her writing level. We get a glimpse into her diary, and watch her growth, her tenacity as she crosses out words until she gets it right. She’s determined to learn how to read, to start a new life with her baby and have a successful career. And like every teenager, she wants to find a cute boyfriend.
Even though it was harsh and sobering, her story, and all the children going through extreme abuse, needs to be heard. Most importantly, they need our help. For that reason, I finished Push.
The movie Precious hits theaters this Friday. It received awards at the Sundance Film Festival, and there is Oscar buzz around Gabourey Sidibe’s performance in the lead role.
Precious’ story did what great stories are made to do. It gives a voice to the nameless and faceless people we pass by every day in such a raw brutally honest way. Just as Elie Wiesel’s harrowing account of the Holocaust in Night, and as Alice Walker brought Nettie to life in The Color Purple, Precious’ story will remain in your mind.