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Precious (Push Movie Tie-in Edition)

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Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, has up until now been invisible to the father who rapes her and the mother who batters her and to the authorities who dismiss her as just one more of Harlem's casualties. But when Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, meets a determined and radical teacher, we follow her on a journey of education and enlightenment as she ...

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Overview

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE

Includes a Reading Group Guide

Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, has up until now been invisible to the father who rapes her and the mother who batters her and to the authorities who dismiss her as just one more of Harlem's casualties. But when Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, meets a determined and radical teacher, we follow her on a journey of education and enlightenment as she learns not only how to write about her life, but how to make it truly her own for the first time.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"You feel you've witnessed nothing less than the birth of a soul." —Entertainment Weekly

"Affecting and impassioned. . . . Sails on the strength of pure, stirring feeling." —The New York Times Book Review

"A fascinating novel that may well find a place in the African-American literary canon. . . . With a fresh new voice that echoes the streets, Sapphire's work is sure to win as many hearts as it disturbs minds." —Philadelphia Inquirer

"A horrific, hope-filled story [that is] brilliant, blunt, merciless." —Newsday

"Brutal, redemptive. . . . You just can't take your eyes off Precious Jones." —Newsweek

"A stunningly frank effort that marks the emergence of an immensely promising writer." —Los Angeles Times Book Review

"[Sapphire] writes with a poet's ear for rhythms, in a voice that pushes her story relentlessly into your mind." —Interview

"Push . . . develops so richly and fearlessly that one cannon resist its power." —Elle

"Precious's story, told through her own unique style and spelling, is a major achievement. It documents a remarkable resilience of spirit." —Boston Globe

"To read the story [is] magic. . . . [It is] paint-peelingly profane and thoroughly real." --Washington Post

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With this much anticipated first novel, told from the point of view of an illiterate, brutalized Harlem teenager, Sapphire (American Dreams), a writer affiliated with the Nuyorican poets, charts the psychic damage of the most ghettoized of inner-city inhabitants. Obese, dark-skinned, HIV-positive, bullied by her sexually abusive mother, Clareece, Precious Jones is, at the novel's outset, pregnant for the second time with her father's child. (Precious had her first daughter at 12, named Little Mongo, "short for Mongoloid Down Sinder, which is what she is; sometimes what I feel I is. I feel so stupid sometimes. So ugly, worth nuffin.") Referred to a pilot program by an unusually solicitous principal, Precious comes under the experimental pedagogy of a lesbian miracle worker named, implausibly enough, Blue Rain. Under her angelic mentorship, Precious, who has never before experienced real nurturing, learns to voice her long suppressed feelings in a journal. As her language skills improve, she finds sustenance in writing poetry, in friendships and in support groups-one for "insect" survivors and one for HIV-positive teens. It is here that Sapphire falters, as her slim and harrowing novel, with its references to Harriet Tubman, Langston Hughes and The Color Purple (a parallel the author hints at again and again), becomes a conventional, albeit dark and unresolved, allegory about redemption. The ending, composed of excerpts from the journals of Precious's classmates, lends heightened realism and a wider scope to the narrative, but also gives it a quality of incompleteness. Sapphire has created a remarkable heroine in Precious, whose first-person street talk is by turns blisteringly savvy, rawly lyrical, hilariously pig-headed and wrenchingly vulnerable. Yet that voice begs to be heard in a larger novel of more depth and complexity. 150,000 first printing; first serial to the New Yorker; audio rights to Random; foreign rights sold to England, France, Germany, Holland, Portugal and Brazil. (June)
Library Journal
A first novel by a highly touted African American poet will have an ambitious 150,000-copy first printing.
Kirkus Reviews
Poet Sapphire's slim first novel draws on her experience as a performance artist and literacy teacher: She tells her sad but sentimentally uplifting story in the voice of a 17-year-old illiterate from Harlem, and the result is more sociological (in the Ricki Lake mold) than literary.

Clareece Precious Jones is a study in abuse. Continually raped by her father since the age of five, she's now pregnant for the second time with his baby, the first having been born with Down's syndrome when Precious was 12. Meantime, her mother is no help, calling the overweight girl a "fat cunt bucket slut," beating her at will, and satisfying her own bizarre sexual needs from her daughter. Schools have also all failed her; teachers find her "uncooperative," and she considers her last a "retarded hoe." Finally, Precious enrolls in a Harlem alternative school where she begins the tough climb out of illiteracy. No longer dreaming impossible ideas about rappers and movie star fame, she joins six others in a basic-skills class run by Blue Rain, a self-proclaimed lesbian who isn't afraid to editorialize in class. In short order, Precious discovers the joys of the alphabet and journal-writing, the pleasures of owning books and composing poetry. Although she raises herself to a seventh-grade level by narrative's end, she also finds out she's HIV positive. All of this is transcribed in a phonetic spelling that's supposed to reflect Precious's actual abilities, but seems condescending—and woefully unauthentic—since Sapphire often loses control of the voice. The homage to The Color Purple ("One thing I say about Farrakhan and Alice Walker they help me like being black") highlights Sapphire's commercial aspirations, as well as, by contrast, her technical inadequacies.

A maudlin (at times pornographic) advertisement for the power of literacy and the value of recovery groups.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307474841
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/20/2009
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Movie-Tie-in
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Sapphire
Sapphire is the author of American Dreams, a collection of poetry which was cited by Publishers Weekly as, "One of the strongest debut collections of the nineties." Push, her novel, won the Book-of-the-Month Club Stephen Crane award for First Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association's First Novelist Award, and, in Great Britain, the Mind Book of the Year Award. Push was named by the Village Voice and Time Out New York as one of the top ten books of 1996. Push was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction. About her most recent book of poetry Poet's and Writer's Magazine wrote, "With her soul on the line in each verse, her latest collection, Black Wings & Blind Angels, retains Sapphire's incendiary power to win hearts and singe minds."
 
Sapphire's work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Black Scholar, Spin, and Bomb. In February of 2007 Arizona State University presented PUSHing Boundaries, PUSHing Art: A Symposium on the Works of Sapphire. Sapphire's work has been translated into eleven languages and has been adapted for stage in the United States and Europe. Precious, the film adaption of her novel, recently won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance (2009).

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Read an Excerpt

1

I was left back when I was twelve because I had a baby for my fahver. That was in 1983. I was out of school for a year. This gonna be my second baby. My daughter got Down Sinder. She's retarded. I had got left back in the second grade too, when I was seven, 'cause I couldn't read (and I still peed on myself). I should be in the eleventh grade, getting ready to go into the twelf' grade so I can gone 'n graduate. But I'm not. I'm in the ninfe grade.

I got suspended from school 'cause I'm pregnant which I don't think is fair. I ain' did nothin'!

My name is Claireece Precious Jones. I don't know why I'm telling you that. Guess 'cause I don't know how far I'm gonna go with this story, or whether it's even a story or why I'm talkin'; whether I'm gonna start from the beginning or right from here or two weeks from now. Two weeks from now? Sure you can do anything when you talking or writing, it's not like living when you can only do what you doing. Some people tell a story 'n it don't make no sense or be true. But I'm gonna try to make sense and tell the truth, else what's the fucking use? Ain' enough lies and shit out there already?

So, OK, it's Thursday, September twenty-four 1987 and I'm walking down the hall. I look good, smell good-fresh, clean. It's hot but I do not take off my leather jacket even though it's hot, it might get stolen or lost. Indian summer, Mr Wicher say. I don't know why he call it that. What he mean is, it's hot, 90 degrees, like summer days. And there is no, none, I mean none, air conditioning in this mutherfucking building. The building I'm talking about is, of course, I.S. 146 on 134th Street between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd. I am walking down the hall from homeroom to first period maff. Why they put some shit like maff first period I do not know. Maybe to gone 'n git it over with. I actually don't mind maff as much as I had thought I would. I jus' fall in Mr Wicher's class sit down. We don't have assigned seats in Mr Wicher's class, we can sit anywhere we want. I sit in the same seat everyday, in the back, last row, next to the door. Even though I know that back door be locked. I don't say nuffin' to him. He don't say nuffin' to me, now. First day he say, "Class turn the book pages to page 122 please." I don't move. He say, "Miss Jones, I said turn the book pages to page 122." I say, "Mutherfucker I ain't deaf!" The whole class laugh. He turn red. He slam his han' down on the book and say, "Try to have some discipline." He a skinny little white man about five feets four inches. A peckerwood as my mother would say. I look at him 'n say, "I can slam too. You wanna slam?" 'N I pick up my book 'n slam it down on the desk hard. The class laugh some more. He say, "Miss Jones I would appreciate it if you would leave the room right NOW." I say, "I ain' going nowhere mutherfucker till the bell ring. I came here to learn maff and you gon' teach me." He look like a bitch just got a train pult on her. He don't know what to do. He try to recoup, be cool, say, "Well, if you want to learn, calm down--" "I'm calm," I tell him. He say, "If you want to learn, shut up and open your book." His face is red, he is shaking. I back off. I have won. I guess.

I didn't want to hurt him or embarrass him like that you know. But I couldn't let him, anybody, know, page 122 look like page 152, 22, 3, 6, 5--all the pages look alike to me. 'N I really do want to learn. Everyday I tell myself something gonna happen, some shit like on TV. I'm gonna break through or somebody gonna break through to me--I'm gonna learn, catch up, be normal, change my seat to the front of the class. But again, it has not been that day.

But thas the first day I'm telling you about. Today is not the first day and like I said I was on my way to maff class when Mrs Lichenstein snatch me out the hall to her office. I'm really mad 'cause actually I like maff even though I don't do nuffin', don't open my book even. I jus' sit there for fifty minutes. I don't cause trouble. In fac' some of the other natives get restless I break on 'em. I say, "Shut up mutherfuckers I'm tryin' to learn something." First they laugh like trying to pull me into fuckin' with Mr Wicher and disrupting the class. Then I get up 'n say, "Shut up mutherfuckers I'm tryin' to learn something." The coons clowning look confuse, Mr Wicher look confuse. But I'm big, five feet nine-ten, I weigh over two hundred pounds. Kids is scared of me. "Coon fool," I tell one kid done jumped up. "Sit down, stop ackin' silly." Mr Wicher look at me confuse but grateful. I'm like the polices for Mr Wicher. I keep law and order. I like him, I pretend he is my husband and we live together in Weschesser, wherever that is.

I can see by his eyes Mr Wicher like me too. I wish I could tell him about all the pages being the same but I can't. I'm getting pretty good grades. I usually do. I just wanna gone get the fuck out of I.S. 146 and go to high school and get my diploma.

Anyway I'm in Mrs Lichenstein's office. She's looking at me, I'm looking at her. I don't say nuffin'. Finally she say, "So Claireece, I see we're expecting a little visitor." But it's not like a question, she's telling me. I still don't say nuffin'. She staring at me, from behind her big wooden desk, she got her white bitch hands folded together on top her desk.

"Claireece."

Everybody call me Precious. I got three names--Claireece Precious Jones. Only mutherfuckers I hate call me Claireece.

"How old are you Claireece?"

White cunt box got my file on her desk. I see it. I ain't that late to lunch. Bitch know how old I am.

"Sixteen is ahh rather ahh"--she clear her throat--"old to still be in junior high school."

I still don't say nuffin'. She know so much let her ass do the talking.

"Come now, you are pregnant, aren't you Claireece?"

She asking now, a few seconds ago the hoe just knew what I was.

"Claireece?"

She tryin' to talk all gentle now and shit.

"Claireece, I'm talking to you."

I still don't say nuffin'. This hoe is keeping me from maff class. I like maff class. Mr Wicher like me in there, need me to keep those rowdy niggers in line. He nice, wear a dope suit every day. He do not come to school looking like some of these other nasty ass teachers.

"I don't want to miss no more of maff class," I tell stupid ass Mrs Lichenstein.

She look at me like I said I wanna suck a dog's dick or some shit. What's with this cunt bucket? (That's what my muver call women she don't like, cunt buckets. I kinda get it and I kinda don't get it, but I like the way it sounds so I say it too.)

I get up to go, Mrs Lichenstein ax me to please sit down, she not through with me yet. But I'm through with her, thas what she don't get.

"This is your second baby?" she says. I wonder what else it say in that file with my name on it. I hate her.

"I think we should have a parent-teacher conference Claireece--me, you, and your mom."

"For what?" I say. "I ain' done nuffin'. I doose my work. I ain' in no trouble. My grades is good."

Mrs Lichenstein look at me like I got three arms or a bad odor out my pussy or something.

What my muver gon' do I want to say. What is she gonna do? But I don't say that. I jus' say, "My muver is busy. "

"Well maybe I could arrange to come to your house--" The look on my face musta hit her, which is what I was gonna do if she said one more word. Come to my house! Nosy ass white bitch! I don't think so! We don't be coming to your house in Weschesser or wherever the fuck you freaks live. Well I be damned, I done heard everything, white bitch wanna visit.

"Well then Claireece, I'm afraid I'm going to have to suspend you--"

"For what!"

"You're pregnant and--"

"You can't suspend me for being pregnant, I got rights!"

"Your attitude Claireece is one of total uncooperation--"

I reached over the desk. I was gonna yank her fat ass out that chair. She fell backwards trying to get away from me 'n started screaming, "SECURITY SECURITY!"

I was out the door and on the street and I could still hear her stupid ass screaming, "SECURITY SECURITY!"

"Precious!" That's my mother calling me.

I don't say nothin'. She been staring at my stomach. I know what's coming. I keep washing dishes. We had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and Wonder bread for dinner. I don't know how many months pregnant I am. I don't wanna stand here 'n hear Mama call me slut. Holler 'n shout on me all day like she did the last time. Slut! Nasty ass tramp! What you been doin'! Who! Who! WHOoooo like owl in Walt Disney movie I seen one time. Whooo? Ya wanna know who--

"Claireece Precious Jones I'm talkin' to you!"

I still don't answer her. I was standing at this sink the last time I was pregnant when them pains hit, wump! Ahh wump! I never felt no shit like that before. Sweat was breaking out on my forehead, pain like fire was eating me up. I jus' standing there 'n pain hit me, then pain go sit down, then pain git up 'n hit me harder! 'N she standing there screaming at me, "Slut! Goddam slut! You fuckin' cow! I don't believe this, right under my nose. You been high tailing it round here." Pain hit me again, then she hit me. I'm on the floor groaning, "Mommy please, Mommy please, please Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY!" Then she KICK me side of my face! "Whore! Whore!" she screamin'. Then Miz West live down the hall pounding on the door, hollering "Mary! Mary! What you doin'! You gonna kill that chile! She need help not no beating, is you crazy!"

Mama say, "She shoulda tole me she was pregnant!"

"Jezus Mary, you didn't know. I knew, the whole building knew. Are you crazy--"

"Don't tell me nothin' about my own chile--"

"Nine-one-one! Nine-one-one! Nine-one-one!" Miz West screamin' now. She call Mama a fool.

Pain walking on me now. Jus' stomping on me. I can't see hear, I jus' screamin', "Mommy! Mommy!"

Some mens, these ambulance mens, I don't see 'em or hear 'em come in. But I look up from the pain and he dere. This Spanish guy in EMS uniform. He push me back on a cushion. I'm like in a ball from the pain. He say, "RELAX!" The pain stabbing me wif a knife and this spic talking 'bout relax.

He touch my forehead put his other hand on the side of my belly. "What's your name?" he say. "Huh?" I say. "Your name?" "Precious," I say. He say, "Precious, it's almost here. I want you to push, you hear me momi, when that shit hit you again, go with it and push, Preshecita. Push."

And I did.

And always after that I look for someone with his face and eyes in Spanish peoples. He coffee-cream color, good hair. I remember that. God. I think he was god. No man was never nice like that to me before. I ask at the hospital behind him, "Where that guy help me?" They say, "Hush girl you jus' had a baby."

But I can't hush 'cause they keep asking me questions. My name? Precious Jones. Claireece Precious Jones to be exact. Birth date? November 4, 1970. Where? "Here," I say, "right chere in Harlem Hospital." "Nineteen seventy?" the nurse say confuse quiet. Then she say, "How old are you?" I say, "Twelve." I was heavy at twelve too, nobody get I'm twelve 'less I tell them. I'm tall. I jus' know I'm over two hundred 'cause the needle on the scale in the bathroom stop there it don't can go no further. Last time they want to weigh me at school I say no. Why for, I know I'm fat. So what. Next topic for the day.

But this not school nurse now, this Harlem Hospital where I was borned, where me and my baby got tooked after it was borned on the kitchen floor at 444 Lenox Avenue. This nurse slim butter-color woman. She lighter than some Spanish womens but I know she black. I can tell. It's something about being a nigger ain't color. This nurse same as me. A lot of black people with nurse cap or big car or light skin same as me but don't know it. I'm so tired I jus' want to disappear. I wish Miss Butter would leave me alone but she jus' staring at me, her eyes getting bigger and bigger. She say she need to get some more information for the birth certificate.

It still tripping me out that I had a baby. I mean I knew I was pregnant, knew how I got pregnant. I been knowing a man put his dick in you, gush white stuff in your booty you could get pregnant. I'm twelve now, I been knowing about that since I was five or six, maybe I always known about pussy and dick. I can't remember not knowing. No, I can't remember a time I did not know. But thas all I knowed. I didn't know how long it take, what's happening inside, nothing, I didn't know nothing.

The nurse is saying something I don't hear. I hear kids at school. Boy say I'm laffing ugly. He say, "Claireece is so ugly she laffing ugly." His fren' say, "No, that fat bitch is crying ugly." Laff laff. Why I'm thinking about those stupid boys now I don't know.

"Mother," she say. "What's your mother's name?" I say, "Mary L Johnston" (L for Lee but my mother don't like Lee, soun' too country). "Where your mother born," she say. I say, "Greenwood, Mississippi." Nurse say, "You ever been there?" I say, "Naw, I never been nowhere." She say, "Reason I ask is I'm from Greenwood, Mississippi, myself." I say, "Oh," 'cause I know I'm spozed to say something.

"Father," she say. "What's your daddy's name?"

"Carl Kenwood Jones, born in the Bronx."

She say, "What's the baby's father's name?"

I say, "Carl Kenwood Jones, born in the same Bronx."

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Introduction

"You feel you've witnessed nothing less than the birth of a soul." —Entertainment Weekly


The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of Sapphire's Push. We hope they will aid your understanding of this vibrant and powerful first novel by one of America's most controversial poets.

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Foreword

1. What does this story tell us about the inadequacy of ordinary schools to deal with students' problems and with their resulting learning handicaps? "I got A in English and never say nuffin', do nuffin'"[p. 49], Precious says. Precious's principal in effect tells her teacher to give up on her, saying, "Focus on the ones who can learn"[p. 37]. Is this an understandable or forgivable attitude? How would you describe Mr. Wicher and his teaching methods? Is he merely a coward or is he trying his best? 

2. "The tesses paint a picture of me wif no brain," says Precious. "The tesses paint a picture of me an' my muver—my whole family, we more than dumb, we invisible"[p. 30]. In what way are Precious and her family members invisible to the larger world? If you have read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, can you compare the way the two authors use the metaphor of invisibility for their characters? 

3. During the course of the story, Precious is obliged to confront her own prejudices and modify or reject them. Her experience with the Hispanic EMS man makes her look at Hispanics for the first time as human beings like herself; her friendship with Ms. Rain and Jermaine makes her reexamine her knee-jerk homophobia. Early in the novel she says, "I hate crack addicts. They give the race a bad name"[p. 14], but later she questions that uncompromising position. In an interview, Sapphire said of Precious that "she doesn't know that hating gay people or hating Jews or hating foreigners is detrimental to her" (Interview, June 1996). Why is it detrimental to her? Why is it imperative that she lose her prejudices before she, herself, can be helped? 

4. How would you describe Precious's self-image at the beginning of the book, and how would you describe it at the end? How have her friends and supporters succeeded in helping to alter her view of herself? 

5. What is Precious's attitude toward Louis Farrakhan and his movement at the beginning of the story? How does this attitude change during the course of her education? Why have Farrakhan and his opinions become such a vital part of her worldview? What do you deduce the author's attitude toward him to be? 

6. A famous—or perhaps infamous—Labor Department study, the Moynihan Report, blamed the absence of fathers and the dominance of women (rather than economic and racial inequality) for the problems confronting the African American family. Many black scholars and activists have argued against the report's conclusions. Which side of the argument do you believe Push to support? 

7. Push presents what one reviewer called "one of the most disturbing portraits of motherhood ever published" (City Paper, November 1996). How would you explain or interpret Precious's mother's behavior? 

8. "Miz Rain say we is a nation of raped children, that the black man in America today is the product of rape" [pp. 68–69]. What does Ms. Rain mean by this metaphor, and does it strike you as an accurate one? 

9. Precious tells Ms. Rain that the welfare helps her mother, to which Ms. Rain responds, "When you get home from the hospital look and see how much welfare has helped your mother" [p. 73]. What does this novel indicate about abuses and inadequacies in the system? How might an ideal system be constructed? 

10. Precious's file reflects the government "workfare" point of view, that Precious should already be earning her own living, possibly as a home attendant. Precious objects violently to this idea. Can you understand the social worker's point of view? Have Precious's and Jermaine's arguments [pp. 121–123] changed any opinions you previously held on this subject? 

11. "Miz Rain say value. Values determine how we live much as money do. I say Miz Rain stupid there. All I can think she don't know to have NOTHIN'"[p. 64]. Which opinion do you agree with, or is there something to be said for both? What answer, if any, does the novel offer? 

12. "One of the myths we've been taught," Sapphire has said, "is that oppression creates moral superiority. I'm here to tell you that the more oppressed a person is, the more oppressive they will be" (Bomb, Fall 1996). How does the novel illustrate the concept of the cycle of abuse? How does Precious break that cycle, and what aspects of her own character enable her to do so? 

13. Push has been called a Dickensian novel, to which Sapphire has responded, "Part of what's so wrong in this story is that we're not in a Dickensian era. Those things shouldn't be happening in a post-industrial society" (Bomb, Fall 1996). She sees the novel as "an indictment of American culture, which is both black and white" (ibid). What aspects of our culture have enabled the inequities described in the novel to develop? Would you say that contemporary American cities consist, as Dickens's London was said to, of two entirely different cultures, the rich one and the poor? 

14. Why do you think Sapphire has chosen to end the story where she does? Does the book end on a sad or hopeful note? What sort of future do you envision for Precious? 

15. What is the significance of the novel's title, Push? At what points in her life is Precious enjoined to "push"? What is meant by this word, and how does Precious respond to the injunctions? 

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. What does this story tell us about the inadequacy of ordinary schools to deal with students' problems and with their resulting learning handicaps? "I got A in English and never say nuffin', do nuffin'"[p. 49], Precious says. Precious's principal in effect tells her teacher to give up on her, saying, "Focus on the ones who can learn"[p. 37]. Is this an understandable or forgivable attitude? How would you describe Mr. Wicher and his teaching methods? Is he merely a coward or is he trying his best? 

2. "The tesses paint a picture of me wif no brain," says Precious. "The tesses paint a picture of me an' my muver—my whole family, we more than dumb, we invisible"[p. 30]. In what way are Precious and her family members invisible to the larger world? If you have read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, can you compare the way the two authors use the metaphor of invisibility for their characters? 

3. During the course of the story, Precious is obliged to confront her own prejudices and modify or reject them. Her experience with the Hispanic EMS man makes her look at Hispanics for the first time as human beings like herself; her friendship with Ms. Rain and Jermaine makes her reexamine her knee-jerk homophobia. Early in the novel she says, "I hate crack addicts. They give the race a bad name"[p. 14], but later she questions that uncompromising position. In an interview, Sapphire said of Precious that "she doesn't know that hating gay people or hating Jews or hating foreigners is detrimental to her" (Interview, June 1996). Why is it detrimental to her? Why is it imperative that she lose her prejudices before she, herself, can be helped? 

4. How would you describe Precious's self-image at the beginning of the book, and how would you describe it at the end? How have her friends and supporters succeeded in helping to alter her view of herself? 

5. What is Precious's attitude toward Louis Farrakhan and his movement at the beginning of the story? How does this attitude change during the course of her education? Why have Farrakhan and his opinions become such a vital part of her worldview? What do you deduce the author's attitude toward him to be? 

6. A famous—or perhaps infamous—Labor Department study, the Moynihan Report, blamed the absence of fathers and the dominance of women (rather than economic and racial inequality) for the problems confronting the African American family. Many black scholars and activists have argued against the report's conclusions. Which side of the argument do you believe Push to support? 

7. Push presents what one reviewer called "one of the most disturbing portraits of motherhood ever published" (City Paper, November 1996). How would you explain or interpret Precious's mother's behavior? 

8. "Miz Rain say we is a nation of raped children, that the black man in America today is the product of rape" [pp. 68–69]. What does Ms. Rain mean by this metaphor, and does it strike you as an accurate one? 

9. Precious tells Ms. Rain that the welfare helps her mother, to which Ms. Rain responds, "When you get home from the hospital look and see how much welfare has helped your mother" [p. 73]. What does this novel indicate about abuses and inadequacies in the system? How might an ideal system be constructed? 

10. Precious's file reflects the government "workfare" point of view, that Precious should already be earning her own living, possibly as a home attendant. Precious objects violently to this idea. Can you understand the social worker's point of view? Have Precious's and Jermaine's arguments [pp. 121–123] changed any opinions you previously held on this subject? 

11. "Miz Rain say value. Values determine how we live much as money do. I say Miz Rain stupid there. All I can think she don't know to have NOTHIN'"[p. 64]. Which opinion do you agree with, or is there something to be said for both? What answer, if any, does the novel offer? 

12. "One of the myths we've been taught," Sapphire has said, "is that oppression creates moral superiority. I'm here to tell you that the more oppressed a person is, the more oppressive they will be" (Bomb, Fall 1996). How does the novel illustrate the concept of the cycle of abuse? How does Precious break that cycle, and what aspects of her own character enable her to do so? 

13. Push has been called a Dickensian novel, to which Sapphire has responded, "Part of what's so wrong in this story is that we're not in a Dickensian era. Those things shouldn't be happening in a post-industrial society" (Bomb, Fall 1996). She sees the novel as "an indictment of American culture, which is both black and white" (ibid). What aspects of our culture have enabled the inequities described in the novel to develop? Would you say that contemporary American cities consist, as Dickens's London was said to, of two entirely different cultures, the rich one and the poor? 

14. Why do you think Sapphire has chosen to end the story where she does? Does the book end on a sad or hopeful note? What sort of future do you envision for Precious? 

15. What is the significance of the novel's title, Push? At what points in her life is Precious enjoined to "push"? What is meant by this word, and how does Precious respond to the injunctions? 

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 83 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(39)

4 Star

(21)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 77 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 13, 2009

    what i like about this book is,.....

    im only ten years old ive never read the book but ive seen the preveiws for this movie and want to read it and see it so badly this just touches my heart, and whoever reads it it could possibly change the way they think about some people im from delaware newark

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2009

    It was ok...

    I bought this book, only cause my library did not carry it. It was a hard read at first trying to figure out a few of the words she was trying to say. It was very sad, but I feel the book could have been alot longer and told more of a story about all the characters...I really want to see the movie, and I hope it fills in the story line more. Borrow the book from a friend or check it out at the library. It was not worth the price I paid for it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2010

    I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!

    I LOVE THIS BOOK. I CRIED READING IT. A MUST READ

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 7, 2010

    Precious by Sapphire MY REVIEW

    I find that this book is a great book to read. i think so because this book is about a young teen in high school who ends up having two kids with down syndrome. Her grammar isn't the best being that she's been in the same grade more than once before. she lives with her mother who abuses her. Precious' mother seems to believe that Precious has stolen her husband. Being that Precious actually got raped by her own father causing her to get pregnant. Later on Precious seems to get her act together after going to school and talking to a counselor. Eventually Precious' mom asks for Precious to forgive all the abuse and horrible treatment she has put her through. Although precious does not accept the apology she seemed to live her life pretty well with her kids being that she could take care of them. i think this book shows the harsh life that many teens around the world are probably going through and how in the end they pick themselves up and live life the correct way. hence, i think this is a great book for people to read.

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  • Posted August 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Must Read

    This book had me crying for hours. You hear about people and their individual horrors but to read about it. The lack of education, the father abuse, the mother's abuse, the denial...etc its appalling. However, understanding and facing the realization that life is like this for people is important. This story being made public, being told is inspiring and brave.

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  • Posted May 23, 2010

    Greatest Book Ever

    "Precious" By: Sapphire is one of the best books I ever read. It's a life changing story. It tells about the life of an illiterate sixteen year old named Precious Jones. She was raped by her father and beat by her mother. Precious had two kids by her father who later died of AIDs. After a while she meets a determined and radical teacher who teaches her to read and write. I really enjoyed this book because it is written as if precious is telling her story. This story could change the way that most teens live their lives. Many teens could be living the same life that precious lived. This story could show them that no matter what comes along, you can continue to live your life. Precious was picked on, beat, and raped. She finally found someone she could tell her story to, and a way she could express her feelings. She wrote poems and stories about her life. She learned very slowly but her teacher Ms. Rain was by her side every step of the way. This story taught me to be thankful for what I have because everyone does not have the things I have. Precious never had any friends until she started to attend school at the Higher Education Alternative/ Each One Teach One. She meets a lot of people who were going through the things similar to what she was going through. I would recommend others to read this book because it's life changing. I think we should read this book in school because it teaches may lessons.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2010

    Must Read

    When reading this book I was incrediablly sceptable at first due to the fragments and the storyline. But as soon as I started I was blown away at the strengh and endurence this character has and how she was able to remove herself from the worse situation possible. As the book goes on you begin to see the improvments she is making for herself and for her future, and you are in awe considering where she started. This is a book that is incrediably hard to read at times but well worth the conquest. It forces you to look inside yourself again and consider if you are selling your abilities short, and asking yourself how strong and willing your soul really is to survive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2010

    Precious, a strong story of a child´s survival.

    I bought this book after seeing the movie previews and decided I wanted to read the book first (I still have not seen the movie). It is easily a book that you will start and want to finish once you have picked it up. The characters and the drama of the story keep you thinking "how can this be?", you may keep reading thinking there has to be a happy ending coming up soon, but no...not the one you may need, this story has a hopeful ending... that is what makes it so real. This story is not candy coated and the language is strong, it may be hard for some to read, I work with children so stories about children get to me and I will admit the tears fell and there is still an image of a little pink dress I can´t get out of my mind. If any thing it is a story that shows that the human spirit is strong and the strong can still see the glass half full when others of us see it smashed and lying on the floor. Well worth reading.

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  • Posted April 14, 2010

    Precious

    I was thrilled with the book. I saw the movie beforehand and read the book about a month ago. The book was more different than the movie in many ways. The book did not really go into the relationship between the social worker and Precious. Overall though, I was quite glad it did not because I got to see the work from the author's point of view and not the director's. It was refreshing to ALMOST not be able to recognize the same story given to us in two different ways.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2010

    mixed review

    I thought the book was good. I would never want to read it again. After I read it I felt very empty and violated inside for days. I understand why it has an open ending after reading other reviews, and it has a truth to it in the way it was written. But, I would not be able to stomach another read like it. I would not recommend this book to a friend, it really isn't for the faint-hearted.

    You wish that you could help out with others and put a stop to things like that!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2010

    Blunt book

    This book is a brutal look at a woman who overcame tremendous odds to improove her life. At times it is difficult to read this book but coninue on and it is worth the read

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Great Story

    There is a lot of swearing though so make sure you are prepared for it. But other wise its a great book.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Moving - as the character progresses so does her writing and views on life.

    As the main character starts the book, her writing needs some translation, as her education improves so do her insights and view of the world.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Tough read

    Each One Teach One is "the way home" so to speak. The Instructor was "brilliant" in this most unusual tale of Life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 6, 2010

    Difficult but required read

    The writing style was so different from the usual. Characters brought a deep response. May I always remember how blessed my life is and the beauty of each individual in this world.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

    Push By:Sapphire

    Push has very diverse charcters and each of them has an important role in Precious life. The protaginist Precious has indureed alot of physical, verbal, and metal abuse from her parents. Internally she has dealed with her low self-esteem and feeling unloved, this was her main conflict. Being abused by her mother and father gave her internal and external conflict. Ms.Rain and her fellow classmates at Each one-Teach one gave Precious hope and confidence.

    In my opinion I think that this book makes you think about what you have and to value it. This book is perfect for an teenager who has the maturity to endure the impact of her struggles. There wasn't a time where I was bored or uninterested with this book. I often questioned, What was Sapphire's inspiration? I personally think that this book was meant to represent the meaning of struggle.

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  • Posted January 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing book on self-discovering and self-improving.

    I finished this book in 2 days and LOVE it. Some things were too harsh to read (especially rape part), but it's life. I love the book from beginning to end: how she started out so down and beat up and eventually grew and improved A LOT. This is a great book and I definitely Recommend.

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  • Posted January 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This book was excellant. I was surprised by the 'rawness' of it. I found it disturbing and uplifting at the same time.

    One of the lessons to be learned from this book is that people are born into situations they have no control over and can loose hope because there is often no way out. It takes help from others who are in better situations. "No man is an island........" Because of the language and the brutal honesty of the story you may want to filter who you recommend it to but for me it was a keeper.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Dramatic and heart rendering story of the life of a teenager living in Harlem

    I heard so much of the buzz surrounding the movie and wanted to read the book before seeing it on the big screen. The story itself is depressing, heart rendering, optimistic and eye opening all at the same time. While it depresses me to know that events like this actually happen and that there are children such as Precious that slip through the system of our Child Protection Services. I couldn't help but love her and her optimism and hope for a better life for herself and her children. I wish the movie would have shared the stories of the other girls in her school like in the book, then viewers would have a better understanding that Precious wasn't an isolated incident in the failures of the system. I understand that the book is a fictional account, but there is some truth to all fiction. There is always some series of events that has sparked the idea in the writer's thought process and the rawness of these girl's stories is too real to think differently!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2010

    Awesome

    Painfully honest. Disturbing. A must read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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