Push

( 443 )

Overview

"Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire," directed by Lee Daniels and written
by Damien Paul

GRAND JURY PRIZE and AUDIENCE AWARD winner at the 2009 Sundance Film
Festival

Relentless, remorseless, and inspirational, this "horrific, hope-filled story" (Newsday) is certain to haunt a generation of readers. Precious Jones, 16 years old and ...

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Overview

"Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire," directed by Lee Daniels and written
by Damien Paul

GRAND JURY PRIZE and AUDIENCE AWARD winner at the 2009 Sundance Film
Festival

Relentless, remorseless, and inspirational, this "horrific, hope-filled story" (Newsday) is certain to haunt a generation of readers. Precious Jones, 16 years old and pregnant by her father with her second child, meets a determined and highly radical teacher who takes her on a journey of transformation and redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

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: 9780679766759
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 93,424
  • 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).
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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

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?

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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?

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 443 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    PUSH By SAPPHIRE

    For all persons in the Humane Race this is an explosive piece of writing that tugs at the inner core of the heart strings of dysfunction, poverty, incest, depression, determination and resiliency. If you are in the human services as a clinical social worker, case worker, psychiatrist or psychologist, PUSH stitches and threads together an excellent knitting of literary work that begins with the foundation of family brokenness. Erickson's stages of development never encountered a Precious Jones, but provides the framework for scientist seeking to complete a picture without benefit of all the necessary puzzle pieces.
    SAPPHIRE draws you in with a her melodic writing as you cheer for the main character on the sidelines screaming PUSH Precious PUSH.
    A must read for anyone who has ever considered waving the white flag!

    24 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2009

    Started good but......

    I was really excited about reading this book when I read that Tyler and Oprah were making a movie about it. Unfortunately, the book started good but ended bad. I was eager to pick it up and finish where I left off thinking that the end would be excellent. I was sad to see the story end at a point that seemed more like the middle of the book. I think this story could have been much better had the author carried the story a little further and provide some closure. Perhaps the movie will give me what I feel I missed with the book.

    14 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2010

    OK

    This book had an great story line but it was hard to read.
    I understand that the main character was unable to read and write and some of the book showing that would have been fine but it was hard to process the reading as it was written in her dialect.
    It was OK.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    DYSFUNCTION UNPARALLELED

    Truly unforgettable is the life of this poor child! Devalued, to say the very least, this girl led a life of incest, every kind of abuse imaginable, such vile, deplorable treatment! Her only saving grace was living inside imagined bodies and characters she watched on TV. This book opens your heart to understanding and the ending of hope and triumph make it worth the misery and tears reading the book!

    Others that make your heart pound with emotion I recommend are Whistling in the dark, THE SHACK and EXPLOSION IN PARIS.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2011

    A NOOK BOOK???!!!!

    IT WOULD BE GREAT IF THIS BOOK WAS FOR DOWNLOAD ON MY NOOK COLOR!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2010

    Why isn't this available for the Nook?

    I don't have a review, I want to read it but I want it on my NOOK! It's been out forever, so what's the hold up?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2009

    great book to read!!!!!1 no questions asked!!

    i had the chance to read this book 8 yrs ago while pregnant with my child and it was excellent. i will never understand how one can harm a child so bad.i'm so glad that a movie was finally made but the reading is a whole other experience. this is definately abook to remember!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 1, 2009

    Omg...a book you have to read!!!

    This book gave me chills up my spine and made me even want to cry the plot is touching and makes you love your life and thank that you dont have to go through what she went through even though many women live a similar life like precious jones.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    What a Fantastic book!

    I loved this book! Was it hard to read? Yes. The language was difficult for me but i got used to it and to me it makes the book more personal and sometimes easier to understand the story. Watching this girl grow up as an abused girl into a woman who could finally help herself was great. Yes, the details in this book are graphic and sometimes are hard to read but it made the story original. The ending does leave a kind of cliff hanger but I think it's so you can use your imagination. Overall a great book with a fascinating main character and other great characters to go on the journey with her and it is a short novel. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2009

    Brilliant

    Extraordinary story that speaks to the inexplicability of life circumstances into which we are born, written in beautiful, poetic prose. Powerful, direct, and sings with the anguish those of us who have suffered at the hands of parents know only too well, but have never had expressed this eloquently. A book everyone must read if one is to understand the human condition, particularly the female human condition in the US today.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    absolutely a touching story

    this story says and teachs volumes!!!its the best thing ever!!!precious is a wonderful person deep down and we all know that, no matter what goes on and i can tell all that by reading the excerpts and watching the movie clips.if the author is reading this i jut wanna say all the stuff i wrote above is so true!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2009

    OMG............a must read

    I read this book back in 1997.At that time the only thing that ran through my mind was Please don't let this be a real person because no one in the world should have to endure all that pain. I have read many books since this but I can still to this day tell you everything about this one. Many say Coldest Winter Ever started the whole trend of reading Afrcian American Authors. I beg to differ. This started it for me. This is a must read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    Real Life...

    When you read this story your first impression is sympathy...Then after you finish the book you are force to see REALITY....This book is great and I can't wait to see the movie...

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2009

    amazing book

    this was the first book i ever read it was so amazing made me cry

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2010

    There but for the grace of God, go I

    I knew this was a fictional story, but was struck by the heart-breaking fact that the author, Saphire, had encountered girls like Precious in her real life work as a teacher. This is a brutally chilling story, horrific and like real life, not likely to promise a wonderfully happy ending. It is a powerful reminder that we do not all come into this world on equal footing, but we can use what we have been blessed with to help others.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2010

    Push Sapphire Ramona Lofton

    I thought the book was very graphic, expressed a lot of discomfort. I recomend anyone who picks this book up to be prepaired for a sickening experience. Alot of the time when I was reading the book I had to put it down and walk away. I recomend this book to ages 17+

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2010

    Stunning.

    This book was captivating-from the shocking 'Harlem' dialect to the horrifying life of Precious Jones. While it is disturbing, this book has such an inspiring energy that can't be denied. Excellently, excellently written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Not for everyone!

    I think that "Push" is possibly one of the most disturbing and realistic works of Fiction that I have ever read. I finished reading this book in one day and I was extremely blown away by the ostentatious writing skills of Sapphire. Sapphire has created a character such as Precious Jones with such depth and inspiration that it is hard to believe that this character is not based on a real person or on actual events.

    "Push" is a thought provoking novel that is definitely not for everyone due to the graphic context of the book. I believe that anyone who has dealt with any kind of abuse would be extremely perturbed by the way the main character is constantly victimized. Otherwise, this is a good book for anyone that isn't easy offended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Disturbing and Painful..Yet Hopeful

    Disturbing. Sad. Painful. Sickening. Heartbreaking. Hopeful.

    This was hands-down the most painful book I think I've ever read. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't actually based upon the life of any one person. Personally, however, I found the descriptions of abuse and betrayal to be so graphic, that I can't help but wonder whether the author had someone's life story in mind when she took pencil to paper and wrote this book.

    This book was difficult for me on so many levels. First, I had difficulty with the coarse language and graphic descriptions of a child molested practically from birth. At one point, I almost put it down; yet as soon as I did, I couldn't stop thinking about the main character. I wanted to know more about her. And so I was compelled to pick it back up and keep reading. I think it would be untrue to say that I'm glad I picked it back up, yet how could I NOT finish it?

    This book produced the most amazing range of emotions from me. My heart ached for Precious, and I was downright furious at her parents. I was sickened and nauseated by the abuse she endured from her parents; the two people in the world who should've loved and protected her. They violated her in every way imaginable...physically, mentally, sexually, and emotionally.

    Truly an unforgettable book. A book that calls to me and makes me want to change the world and make it a better and safer place for people like Precious. A book that inspires me to want to seek punishment for those who use and abuse the very people they are entrusted to protect.

    This book is not for the sensitive or for the faint-hearted. It's one I will never forget.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Incredibly Amazing

    Words can't even describe the range of emotions you feel throughout this book. Even though it's a fiction book, there are many people in this world who are having to endure the same if not similar abuse. It's a heartbreaking yet heartwarming story. It makes you appreciate your life and it also makes you want to help others.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 443 Customer Reviews

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