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Review: Push

December 15, 2009

Precious Jones is sixteen years old, in the ninth grade and pregnant with her second child.  She has suffered unimaginable abuse and is basically illiterate.  Because of the pregnancy, she is suspended and sent to an alternative school.  She’s offended at first, but alternative school turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to Precious.  That’s not to say that her life is ever easy.

Push by Sapphire is the story of Precious Jones.  It’s written in vernacular, so some of the writing is crude, but you can follow Precious’s progress throughout the book.  Push is gritty, raw, emotional and heartbreaking.  I could hardly stand it when Precious described herself this way:

I big, I talk, I eats, I cooks, I laugh, watch TV, do what my muver say.  But I can see when the picture come back I don’t exist.  Don’t nobody want me.  Don’t nobody need me.  I know who I am.  I know who they say I am – vampire sucking the system’s blood.  Ugly black grease to be wipe away, punish, kilt, changed, finded a job for.

I’m not sure that enjoyed is the right word to describe my feelings for this book – I think maybe affected is more appropriate.  Push is well written and disturbing on so many levels.  It is hard to imagine how someone can treat another human being in such a horrible fashion.  The tears just flowed when I read this passage:

I always thought I was someone different on the inside.  That I was just fat and black and ugly to people on the OUTSIDE. And if they could see inside me they would see something lovely and not keep laughing at me, throwing spitballs (shit one time nigger at school just spit on me when I was pregnant) and polly seed shells at me, that Mama and Daddy would recognize me as. . . as, I don’t know, Precious!

I think it would be impossible to read this book and not be moved.  Push is a novel, but I suspect it’s based on a real person or several real people.  I couldn’t help but think of a young girl who was in Vance’s fifth grade class as I read this book.  She was living in a condemned building with her mother’s boyfriend because her mother was in jail.  The other students used to complain because she smelled bad.  I talked to Vance about the importance of being kind to her since she had no one at home who cared about her and I did what I could to help her.  She always gave me a big hug when she saw me, but she was so quiet that it was hard to know if I made any difference.  I’m sad to say that I lost contact with her because we moved.  I just wonder how many children in this country are suffering  that way.

I think Push is an important piece of literature, but be forewarned that it includes language, crude sexual references, sexual abuse and child abuse.  It covers many topics that are difficult and uncomfortable to read about.

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55 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2009 7:06 am

    That makes my stomach hurt just reading the passages. Still, these kinds of books have never scared me off. I liked to be moved. It is good to get shaken out of my comfortable little bubble. This would make an excellent Read the Book/See the Movie…

  2. December 15, 2009 7:16 am

    Oh my goodness — what a power book. Your review is absolutely amazing! I need to read this book based on your reaction!

  3. December 15, 2009 7:55 am

    I think I would have a hard time reading this book. It just sounds so- raw, if that’s the right word.

  4. December 15, 2009 8:02 am

    I recently bought this book and I really need to go ahead and read it because it sounds so provoking.

  5. December 15, 2009 8:09 am

    This is a book that has been on my mind since the movie was released! I think I have to find this book soon…or maybe add it to the hubby’s book buying list for the holiday! LOL

  6. December 15, 2009 8:27 am

    Reading the second passage I got gooseflesh . Must be really powerful book. Though uncomfortable to read they are important to make us aware of these atrocities against people around us .I am adding it to my wishlist

  7. December 15, 2009 8:31 am

    I’m adding this one to my list. I’m curious about the movie, too.

  8. December 15, 2009 8:34 am

    I find I have a hard time reading books like this now that I have young kids.

  9. December 15, 2009 8:42 am

    I recently saw the film based on this book and found myself wondering about the novel. Thanks for your review- I think I’d like to read it.

  10. December 15, 2009 8:54 am

    It sounds like a hard read. I don’t think I could cope with a book like this. I can only feel such sorrow for a character like that.

  11. December 15, 2009 9:02 am

    Great review! This book sounds so powerful and raw that I just have to read it. I’m going to see the movie version of this book later on this week and I already know its going to be tough to watch, just like I can tell its going to be tough to read this book. Thanks for the honest review of this book. And just so you know, I do think that your kindness towards that little girl in Vance’s class did affect her in a positive way, because it showed her that there are kind people out in the world.

  12. December 15, 2009 9:02 am

    I have been tempted to read this…and see the movie. maybe in the opposite order. But I think that I will wait until after Christmas..because I am a coward. 😉

  13. December 15, 2009 9:23 am

    I don’t think I could read this! Or see the movie – I would make too much noise crying in the theater! (But not to worry, who knows when if ever it will come to our little backwater!)

  14. December 15, 2009 9:46 am

    And I am affected by your review. 🙂 You have such a big heart and love that you share it with us.

  15. December 15, 2009 10:15 am

    I have a cookie recipe that calls for sage and cornmeal. It is one of my favorites.

  16. December 15, 2009 10:36 am

    This sounds like one of those important books that should be read even though they make us uncomfortable. Thank you for posting about it.

  17. December 15, 2009 10:41 am

    I think I’d rather read this book than see the movie. Don’t we all feel that way sometimes–that no one is seeing what’s inside?

  18. December 15, 2009 10:44 am

    Wow. What a tragedy to have to go through this! I got pregnant at 17 and was lucky enough to have the support of my amazing parents through it all. Their support allowed me to go on and finish school and hold a job and get married and have two more little kiddos!!! I am forever thankful for them, and books like these remind me of how lucky I truly was (and am!!!)

  19. December 15, 2009 11:46 am

    Sounds like a tough read, but one that’s worth it in the end.

  20. December 15, 2009 12:04 pm

    I really need to read this one, i saw on Oprah a clip of this movie and totally loved it. Reading the book first maybe makes me understand it better. Thank you for your review!

  21. December 15, 2009 12:24 pm

    I read about this movie in the NY Times. The book and movie sound like they’d provide a very emotional experience.

    The lead actress in the movie was apparently a psychology student before she was cast as Precious.

    Thanks for your review.

  22. December 15, 2009 12:32 pm

    I’m glad you brought this book to our attention. The more people who become aware of children living in this situation, the sooner it can be dealt with.

  23. December 15, 2009 1:47 pm

    Great review, I’m going to add it to my wish list.
    This sounds like one of those books that are hard to read, but you can’t put it down, and when you are finished you just have to think about it for awhile.

  24. December 15, 2009 2:36 pm

    I saw the movie Precious. It was amazing, but yeah some of the parts were pretty sensitive.
    I really want to read this book. Great review!

  25. December 15, 2009 2:56 pm

    Great review!

  26. December 15, 2009 3:05 pm

    This really is a powerful book. It made quite an impression on me too. I am glad to see it finally getting more attention. The issues it addresses are very real and present in our society. Thank you for your great review, Kathy.

  27. December 15, 2009 3:44 pm

    It sounds like an important and powerful book. I wonder if the movie does the book justice.

    Thanks for the review.

    Straight From Hel

  28. December 15, 2009 4:08 pm

    Too many children to count Kathy! I see it daily in the public schools and it is heart breaking. I must read this book!

  29. December 15, 2009 4:50 pm

    This book sounds fascinating and, in its own way, educational.

  30. December 15, 2009 5:19 pm

    Thanks for reviewing this, Kathy. It’s a really powerful book and I hope that since the movie came out lots of people read it.

  31. December 15, 2009 5:39 pm

    It sounds so powerful, but really upsetting. It is heartbreaking reading the quotes that you took from the book. I remember a couple of girls specifically from grade school who were like the girl that you mentioned. It is so very sad.

  32. stacybuckeye permalink
    December 15, 2009 5:50 pm

    Wow. Those passages are amazing. I’ve got to read this and see the movie. Great post, Kathy!

  33. December 15, 2009 6:20 pm

    I need to read this book soon so I can see the movie. I’m just a bit afraid that it will “affect” me also and make me very sad…

  34. December 15, 2009 6:26 pm

    I’ve heard great reviews about this book. I’ll have to check it out.

  35. December 15, 2009 6:32 pm

    I saw this book at the store last week and almost bought it – I’ll definitely have to now. Thanks for a great review, Kathy.

  36. December 15, 2009 7:00 pm

    Fantastic review Kathy. This book certainly sounds disturbing but one I still wouldn’t mind reading eventually.

  37. Bellezza permalink
    December 15, 2009 7:15 pm

    It’s a personal biaz, but I can’t stand books written in the vernacular. Even The Grapes of Wrath drove me to distraction with the “poor grammar”. It must be the tightass teacher in me, but that’s what keeps me from picking this up.

  38. December 15, 2009 7:46 pm

    I want to read this one too. I’m waiting on my office mate to finish it – she bought it not long ago. And then I want to see the movie.

    And, you asked about my hair – I cut it all off – I have a very short do- I’ll see if I can find a picture!

  39. December 15, 2009 8:56 pm

    Wow. I had heard about this book of course, and the movie and all but I had not read a passage of it. The ones you shared here made my stomach turn. What a powerful read.

  40. December 15, 2009 10:08 pm

    Excellent review, on a book that I think would be too tough for me (right now anyways).

  41. December 15, 2009 10:56 pm

    kathy, i’m actually reading this one right now and can’t imagine what life was like for this girl!

    i’ll have to come back and read your review when i finish. (i’m afraid of spoilers!)

  42. December 16, 2009 4:06 am

    wow – this sounds incredibly sad, but also like a book I can’t miss.

  43. December 16, 2009 10:20 am

    I read this book years ago. You’re right about it being a powerful book. It’s gritty and emotional and I love how readers are able to watch the progress that Precious makes by the way she writes and how her words become smoother. This is a book that weighs heavily on your heart. Great review.

  44. December 16, 2009 2:47 pm

    Wow, I’m not sure I could get through this one… though it does sound deeply affecting. My coworker was telling me about the film “Precious” yesterday, and I teared up just listening to his synopsis of the story! My heart breaks for anyone who would have to go through something like this… and my heart broke over the story of Vance’s classmate. I knew kids like that, too, and wish I’d been kinder to them when I could have.

  45. December 17, 2009 12:03 am

    I’ve been interested in this one since the PR about the movie started coming out. Do you think you’ll see the movie?

  46. December 17, 2009 8:00 am

    I have a hard time reading books like this since I had my son but I am going to seriously consider reading it. I’ve been intrigued from your wonderful review and my interest in seeing the movie.

  47. December 17, 2009 7:19 pm

    Wonderful review … you really gave me a feel for the book and thank you for sharing your personal feelings and insights. I’m sure there are far too many children out there for whom this type of life is a reality. I’m glad this book is getting the recognition it seems to deserve.

  48. December 17, 2009 9:13 pm

    You know me, I’m not one to shy away from heavy topics. I’ll keep this one in mind.

  49. December 18, 2009 8:17 pm

    This is on my Must Read list.

  50. December 20, 2009 8:53 am

    This does seem like a powerful book, I imagine it’s one that keeps hitting you days after you read it.

    I’d like to read it, then see the movie …

  51. December 20, 2009 7:41 pm

    Reading isn’t just about entertainment – at its best it opens up new worlds for us . . . and every world isn’t pretty. I think you’re right about this being an important piece of literature. The quotes you chose are really powerful. You’ve written a very moving review.

    For what it’s worth, I think you must have had a big impact on the girl from Vance’s class. I’m sure there weren’t many people with whom she got to share hugs!

  52. December 21, 2009 11:02 am

    The power of that book comes through with your review. Wow — I’m speechless and have watery eyes. I’m sure you gave that young girl a spark of light in her dark existence.

  53. December 21, 2009 4:24 pm

    Those passages you quoted made me cry. It is so sad to think that there are real children living this way and it makes me proud to know you that you helped someone who was in such dire straits. It sounds like a heartbreaking read.

  54. December 22, 2009 10:10 am

    I honestly might have an easier time reading the book than watching the movie. For some reason it’s harder for me to deal with sad stuff on screen than in a book! Thanks for the review.

  55. December 26, 2009 1:23 pm

    I would read this and probably will thanks to your review. I know it would affect me, but it sounds like a worthy and important read.

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